Report of the Committee on Academic Salaries - (1) to No 4388

<br /> Oxford University Gazette: Report on Academic Salaries<br /> (supplement)

Oxford University Gazette

Report of the Committee on Academic Salaries

(Non-clinical professorial stipends)

Supplement (1) to Gazette No. 4388

Monday, 29 January 1996

Contents of the supplement:

To Gazette No. 4389
(1 February 1996)

To Gazette
Home Page

[Prefatory note]

The following report is published in connection with the General Resolution
concerning salaries of non-clinical professors which is on the agenda for the
meeting of Congregation on 20 February 1996 (see University Agenda, Gazette 1 February 1996)



1 In Michaelmas Term 1994 Council and the General Board
considered a report from the committee on non-clinical professorial stipends.
The following main points were made and noted or approved by Council and the
General Board.

(a) Oxford's average payments to professors (taking into account
discretionary awards and departmental allowances) were not out of line with
those of other universities.

(b) Oxford should not abandon the fixed basic salary for
professors, with periodic rounds of distinction awards, but should continue,
however, the arrangement under which, if the Vice-Chancellor was satisfied
after inquiry as to the distinction of an invitee to a chair, a temporary
distinction award might be made, to last until the next round of such awards
at which point the professor in question would be considered for a permanent
award on the same footing as all those without such awards. This scheme should
be brought fully to the notice of Congregation. [ "#Note1Ref">Note: 1]

(c) Further thought should be given to the level of the basic
professorial salary, bearing in mind inter alia that Cambridge's
basic salary was some £2K more than Oxford's and also that a rough
calculation suggested that an Oxford tutorial fellow paid at the joint maximum
might on average be £800 per annum worse off (because of loss of college
allowances) on election to an established professorship if paid at the basic

2 At this point discussions were suspended until decisions
had been made on promotions and the recognition of distinction, in case these
involved significant extra expenditure on professorial posts. Following the
decision to confer titles without change of stipends or duties, consideration
of professorial salaries began again in Trinity Term 1995 and has continued in
Michaelmas Term. In the 1995--6 budget exercise, £272K recurrent was set
aside for professorial pay (a sum calculated by reference to ideas under
discussion by the Academic Salaries Committee at the time the budget was
prepared but which do not now form the basis of the proposals.

Return to List of Contents of the supplement

Proposal for additional levels of distinction award

3 In resuming its discussions the committee started by
thinking further about point 1 (c) above. In addition to the
particular issues of comparability mentioned in it, there is evidence that the
relatively low level of basic professorial salary is a disincentive to
recruitment, and the committee has undertaken some further investigation of
the position in other UK universities in order to see precisely how Oxford's
arrangements compare. On the latter point, the information in the annexe to
this report confirms that Oxford's average expenditure on professorial
salaries (i.e. including not only the basic salary but merit awards and
departmental allowances) is in line with similar expenditure by other
universities even though other universities may make payments to some
professors which are considerably larger than any payment made by Oxford. The
absence of such payments at Oxford is balanced by the absence of payments at
the bottom of the professorial range, i.e. Oxford's professorial minimum is
relatively high.

4 None the less, the committee is clear from what has been
said to it about recent experience of recruitment to professorships that
Oxford's arrangements need to be changed in order to ensure that the
University is in a position to recruit the most distinguished individuals to
its chairs. Problems over salary which have been experienced with invitees
(particularly in the last few months) show clearly that the level of the basic
Oxford professorial stipend is affecting the overall field for posts.
Electoral boards are finding it more difficult to assess the full range of
potential appointees since it is clear that many individuals simply would not
consider accepting, on salary grounds. This is now becoming widespread in
respect of potential candidates from the UK as well as from overseas: in the
context of the comparative information in the annexe it will be appreciated
that it is often the individuals in the higher range of professorial salaries
at other institutions whom Oxford is trying to attract to its basic
professorial stipend. In other words, Oxford is increasingly trying to appoint
the outstanding stars from other institutions who command, under the salary
arrangements of those institutions, salaries greatly in excess of the norm for
those places and in excess of national averages. The committee also accepts
that it is important to address the questions of comparability with the income
of a tutorial fellow (in part again to encourage recruitment) and with
arrangements at Cambridge. The committee is also sympathetic to the view that
very many of the distinguished professorial staff already at Oxford may
justifiably expect their salaries not to be out of line with those of
outstanding individuals elsewhere. As the information in the annexe shows,
Oxford salaries are only comparable with those in the upper quartile in other
universities when distinction awards are paid, and the committee is therefore
clear that an increase in the basic salary level, or in the levels and numbers
of distinction awards, is needed.

Return to List of Contents of the supplement

5 Noting the agreement (see 1 (b) above) that
Oxford should maintain a basic professorial salary, the committee has
therefore concentrated on the merits of a flat increase in the base rate as
against the provision of more distinction awards and/or the creation of
further levels of distinction award in addition to the existing ones in a way
which would in essence create a professorial `scale', albeit one through which
there would be no automatic progression.

6 As noted above, Council and General Board, on the
recommendation of the Resources Committee, agreed in Trinity Term 1995 to set
aside £272K per annum from 1 August 1995 for changes in professorial pay.
The committee has noted that it would be possible to use this money in one of
two ways.

7 The first would be to increase the basic professorial
salary. Allowing for the necessary extra NI and USS payments, £272K would
be sufficient to fund an increase of £1,172 in the basic professorial
salary, so raising it from £36,827 to £37,999. Although it would
obviously not be unhelpful to be able to advertise chairs at this slightly
higher salary, the committee does not believe that such an across-the-board
increase—which would leave the professorial minimum still the best part
of £1,000 below the Cambridge base salary (£38,993)—would be an
efficient use of resources. It would do little to solve the serious problems
of comparability and difficulties of recruitment, while representing quite a
large commitment of money.

8 The second option would be to revise the scheme for
distinction awards. The committee unanimously prefers this alternative way of
proceeding. It proposes that there should be three new levels of award, as

              5,478  existing awards
              8,212  existing awards

(thus permitting a maximum salary, for non-clinical professors without a
departmental allowance, of £53,251).

Return to List of Contents of the supplement

9 The introduction of a wider range of awards would, in
the committee's view, address a number of problems of comparability with other
institutions, and would allow for a sizeable increase in salaries for many
current professors across the range of distinction (thus to a large extent
also dealing satisfactorily with the question of comparability with the
salaries of Cambridge professors and of Oxford tutorial fellows). Most
importantly, in the committee's view, it would help recruitment by making it
even clearer than at present that although there is a basic Oxford
professorial salary, additional awards are available and that in the course of
an appointment here there would be regular opportunities for individuals to be
considered for substantial salary increases. This would markedly improve the
University's ability to attract an appropriate field for professorships and
enhance the likelihood that distinguished invitees would not decline on salary

Return to List of Contents of the supplement


10 Having reached agreement on this, the committee has
spent considerable time discussing the procedure for the conferment of the
awards and the management of the limited cash sums available, since the
introduction of new levels of award, combined with concern about recruitment,
has obvious implications for the procedures used for making awards. Under
existing arrangements, the next round of the conferment of awards by the
Committee on Distinction Awards will take place in 1997, the awards taking
effect from 1 October 1997. The Academic Salaries Committee is clear that,
given the recruitment difficulties referred to above, the new levels of award
should be introduced as soon as possible and that, since it would be
inequitable for them to be available only to newly appointed professors, the
1997 round should be advanced to 1996 so that all those already in post should
have the opportunity of being considered (if they wish) for the whole of the
proposed new range. The suggested sequence of events is as follows.

(a) The Vice-Chancellor continues (see 1 (b) above),
where appropriate, to make awards to invitees at the existing levels after due
consultation during the coming months.

(b) The Committee on Distinction Awards then considers
applications from professors in post and from those who have accepted chairs
but have not yet taken them up for awards in the new range at an appropriate
time in 1996 (which may well not be until the Long Vacation of that year) and
allocates the available sums (see below) to take effect from 1 October 1996.

(c) Future general exercises should take place at two-yearly
intervals and the Vice-Chancellor should, in the interval between exercises,
have sufficient funds available to be able to make awards under the procedure
described below. For the reasons also given below, it is the committee's view
that in the future such awards should be permanent and, moreover, the interim
awards made since the 1994 exercise and any others made under (a)
above before the 1996 review should become permanent.

Return to List of Contents of the supplement

The financial position

11 For a distinctions award round in 1996, the following
sums will be available (all figures are net of superannuation and USS and are
in 1995–6 terms):

(i) Funds from existing resources devoted to these
purposes, released by retirement, resignation, etc.:

(ii) New money
[Note: 2]:


12 One possible allocation of these funds would produce,
for example, the following distribution. It includes an assumed nine interim
awards made by Mr Vice-Chancellor (between the 1994 and 1996 exercises), which
become recurrent, two at £8K and seven at £5K. (Actual commitments
at the time of writing this report amount to £28K.)

                             £16     £12     £8     £5      £2      £0
                              7       14      22     57      19      61

(Distribution after -- -- 31 70 -- 72) exercise w.e.f. 1.10.94

(Projected distribution -- -- 24 61 -- 95) as 1.10.96, before new awards are made

The distribution in the top line of the table above would be reached by the
following changes in the existing distribution of awards:

                              £8K—£16K  7
                              £5K—£16K  0
                              £0K—£16K  0
                              £8K—£12K 12
                              £5K—£12K  2
                              £0K—£12K  0
                              £5K—£ 8K 15
                              £0K—£ 8K  0
                              £0K—£ 5K  6
                              £0K—£ 2K 19

Return to List of Contents of the supplement

13 The above distribution commits all available recurrent
funds. If the Vice-Chancellor is to be free to make permanent awards between
the regular reviews, funds need to be available to him; the committee
considers, on the basis of the average number of appointments made each year
and the distribution of awards given in the above table, that perhaps some
£60K per annum would be required. The committee has considered whether
some of the available recurrent funds should be held back in the 1996 exercise
or whether a bid might be made at this stage for additional recurrent money.
On the former, the committee thinks that, if those already holding chairs here
are to be given a reasonable chance of securing an award under the new
arrangements, the maximum amount of available money should be used in the 1996
exercise at what is inevitably an awkward transitional point. On the
possibility of a bid for extra funds, the committee is clear that, in the
light of the gloomy financial outlook, this is not possible. It is however the
case that there are non-recurrent savings in 1995–6 on the new money set
aside at the beginning of the year. It is the committee's view that these
savings (£216K) should be used to fund any awards made between the 1996
and 1998 exercises. This seems more than sufficient. If £60K per annum is
needed the full cost of new awards over the two years would be £180K. In
the 1998 exercise, those awards will have to be the first charge on the
recurrent funds released by retirement or resignation. It may be that at that
point there will be little, if any, recurrent money available for the review
and the issue of whether additional funds should be provided will have to be
tackled then. It is possible on the other hand that the system may be in a
steady state by 1998; much depends on the age distribution of the awards in
1996. Time alone will tell. It is not an ideal arrangement but in the
committee's view it is preferable to launch the new range of distinction
awards with as much money as possible and to introduce at once a reasonable
distribution of awards.

Return to List of Contents of the supplement


14 The criteria applied by the Committee on Distinction
Awards for Non-clinical Professors are `outstanding academic distinction
and/or contribution to the academic work of the University (e.g. in leadership
in, or in the development of, some field of study)'. The Committee on Academic
Salaries has discussed whether it would be desirable to amend the criteria to
reflect the way in which awards can act as recruitment incentives (and for
retention purposes, though there is little evidence that among Oxford staff it
is the professors whom the University is most at risk of losing). Although
such amendment would have some attractions (principally of simplicity, in
expressly permitting recognition of `market' considerations and in determining
whether, and if so at what level, an award should be made to a new professor)
the committee has agreed that it would be preferable to maintain the current
position that the awards are made solely on academic merit. To follow the
`market' principle would inevitably lead to differential salaries being paid
as a function of the field of the post (since the University's current
arrangements for stipends are variably uncompetitive by subject). The
committee does not think that this would be appropriate. It is in any case
much less easy for this University than for others to apply the market
principle since Oxford is unusual in employing, and seeking to recruit, a
`galaxy of stars'. Moreover the University is more used to distinguishing
between individuals on grounds of distinction rather than on the basis of
market forces. Most importantly perhaps, a switch in emphasis in the latter
direction might make the proposals now favoured by the committee for the
extension of distinction awards more controversial in the University than they
would otherwise be.

Return to List of Contents of the supplement

Procedure for conferment of awards between exercises

15 The committee suggests the following arrangements
(which formalise the careful steps which the Vice-Chancellor already takes
before he agrees that an interim award should be made). Once an electoral
board has agreed on an invitee, the Vice-Chancellor should, in each case, and
in consultation with a number of suitably qualified individuals such as the
chairman of the electoral board, at least two members of the Committee on
Distinction Awards, and at least one person external to Oxford, decide on the
appropriate salary—i.e. which, if any, distinction award should be added
to the basic stipend. As already stated above (para. 10 (c)), such
awards should not be interim ones, as at present, but permanent, like those
made by the Committee on Distinction Awards. This salary would be specified in
the invitation to accept election to the chair, and would be non-negotiable,
not least since the procedure in this regard would be set out in further
particulars for chairs so that candidates would have every opportunity at the
point of application to ensure that the University was aware of their merits.
(The committee envisages that if the new arrangements are set out in further
particulars it will be appropriate not to quote any particular salary level in
advertisements for professorial appointments—as Council has already
agreed, on the recommendation of the Working Party on Statutory Posts.)

16 The committee realises that this proposal might mean
that the salaries on appointment which would be offered to invitees in some
cases might exceed the level required to secure an acceptance. However it
firmly believes that if differential salary arrangements are available at all
on appointment, it is necessary to consider the appropriate starting salary of
all incoming staff, on grounds of fairness and consistency. Hitherto, caught
between the need to recruit the best candidates and the need to keep to the
absolute minimum the number of ad hoc salary arrangements (bearing in mind the
arrangements recognised by Congregation), Vice-Chancellors have perforce made
special arrangements only when an invitee has raised difficulties over the
level of the basic stipend. In the longer term and as a permanent arrangement
this cannot be regarded as equitable and may even be open to legal challenge.

17 The committee recognises that proposals for permanent
distinction awards on appointment may be controversial. However, it believes
that it is not satisfactory for either the invitee, the Vice-Chancellor, or
the Committee on Distinction Awards to have to deal with the current
possibility that the starting salary might in due course be reduced,
conceivably permanently, at the next review.

Return to List of Contents of the supplement


18 In summary therefore the committee

(i) the introduction of three new levels of distinction award;

(ii) the introduction of biennial exercises for the conferment of such
awards, the first such exercise to be held in 1996;

(iii) that the possibility of the conferment of a distinction award be
considered for every invitee to a professorship and that awards made at the
time of appointment (including such awards made since the 1994 exercise) be

(iv) that the procedure for making awards on appointment be formalised as

(v) that the criteria for making awards, both on appointment and in
biennial exercises, remain as at present, i.e. academic merit (see para. 14);

(vi) that the financial arrangements until the 1998 exercise be as set out
above in para. 13, all available recurrent money being committed in the 1996

19 The committee further recommends

(vii) that its report be published in the Gazette and that
Congregation be invited to approve a general resolution endorsing these

Return to List of Contents of the supplement


Comparisons between professorial salaries at Oxford and those at other

In the course of its discussions the committee has considered information from
various sources on the range of professorial salaries at other institutions.
Figures from the most recent survey of this, conducted by the Universities and
Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), follow as tables A and B.
The information relates to salary levels prior to the 1 April 1995 increase,
so comparisons should be with the following Oxford figures:

                              Basic salary           35,859

Departmental allowances

                              Schedule I             6,242
                              Schedule II            4,140
                              Schedule III           3,127
                              Schedule IV            1,587

Distinction awards                                   5,334

(Following the last triennial exercise 31 professors received the higher
distinction award, 70 the lower, and 72 no award. Some heads of department of
course receive both a departmental allowance and a distinction award.)

On the basis of table A, Oxford's basic salary before 1 April 1995 was at the
median for Humanities, just below it for Social Studies, and well below it in
the case of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics. (The figure for clinical
and pre-clinical subjects includes salaries on clinical academic scales and is
not therefore helpful for the present purposes.) It will be seen that for
Science and Engineering, payments of the basic salary plus a Schedule I
allowance bring Oxford professors above the median but not into the upper
quartile in either case. For Science, payment of a Schedule II allowance and a
lower-level distinction award would achieve this. For Engineering, a Schedule
I allowance and a lower-level distinction award, or a Schedule II allowance
and a higher-level award, would be necessary to do so.

Some care is needed in interpreting this table because it includes London
figures and therefore London weighting. UCEA has not provided a breakdown both
by geographical locality and by subject but has released other information
which analyses by geographical area payment to deans and to heads of
department combined. The median London salary in that case is £41,798,
against £38,007 for the South, £39,150 for the Midlands–Wales
(which would include Oxford on the definitions used by this survey), and
£38,738 for the North, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. A difference here
of the order of £3K between London and the rest gives some indication of
the likely extent to which London salaries may have influenced the figures in
table A.

Table B gives comparative information for professors without departmental
responsibilities and this is obviously of particular interest given that the
vast majority of the Oxford professoriate does not receive a departmental
allowance. From this it will be seen that for all subjects (apart again from
Medicine), Oxford's base salary in 1994–5 was in the lower half of the
range but above the lower quartile. For all such professors who received a
lower merit award it was however in the upper quartile, except for Mathematics
etc., Management, and Education (but in none of these did it fall short of the
quartile by more than a few hundred pounds).

Return to List of Contents of the supplement

Table A

Basic salaries of heads of department in traditional universities with
expenditure up to £300m, listed by subject and expressed in terms of
lower quartile, median, and upper quartile levels

                              LQ         M          UQ     Sample
                              £          £          £       No.
Clinical and pre-clinical
subjects                      51,165    62,500    86,980   155

Subjects and professions
allied to Medicine            36,617    38,706    41,011   16

Science                       35,985    39,625    44,379   112
Engineering and
Technology                    38,619    42,124    46,616   52

Built Environment             35,399    38,436    41,398   6

Mathematical Sciences,
IT, and Computing             34,500    38,700    43,750   43

Business and Management       36,660    40,105    43,503   52

Social Sciences               33,425    36,500    40,798   93

Humanities                    32,602    35,819    38,700   171

Art, Design, and 
Performing Arts               29,646    35,871    39,401   20

Education                     33,120    35,468    40,429   32

Note. For comparison, at the same date Oxford's figures for basic
salary, plus head-of-department allowance, but without distinction awards,

                              Schedule I          £42,101
                              Schedule II         £39,999
                              Schedule III        £38,986
                              Schedule IV         £37,446

Return to List of Contents of the supplement

Table B

Basic salaries of professorial staff without departmental
in traditional universities with expenditure up to
£300m, listed by subject and expressed in terms of lower quartile,
median, and upper quartile levels

                              LQ         M          UQ     Sample
                              £          £          £       No.

Clinical and pre-clinical
subjects                      37,675    43,754    51,165   40

Subjects and professions
allied to Medicine            34,410    37,192    38,410   18

Science                       34,851    37,575    40,232   288

Engineering and
Technology                    35,231    38,106    41,051   126
Built Environment             32,709    36,628    39,911   8

Mathematical Sciences,
IT, and Computing             35,201    37,958    41,648   141

Business and Management       33,946    38,235    41,470   115

Social Sciences               34,597    37,359    41,000   223

Humanities                    34,509    37,000    41,045   217

Art, Design, and
Performing Arts               35,414    36,663    39,257   30

Education                     34,552    37,210    41,516   44

Note. For comparison, at the same date (excluding departmental
allowances but taking account of distinction awards made with effect from 1
October 1994), Oxford figures were:

basic                         £35,859 (paid to 42% of the professoriate)

plus lower distinction
award                         £41,193 (paid to 40% of the professoriate)

plus higher distinction
award                         £43,855 (paid to 18% of the professoriate)


[Note: 1]

This scheme is now described in the summary of this report in the explanatory
note to the General Resolution. It was referred to briefly in paras.
39–41 of the report of the Working Party on Statutory Posts (Supplement
(1) to Gazette No. 4317, 21 February 1994, p. 801).

Return to text

[Note: 2]

The net equivalent of the additional £272K set aside in the 1995–6

Return to text

Return to List of Contents of the supplement