How much is Imperial’s pay offer really worth compared to UCEA’s? Less than you might expect.
Imperial College management claim that their 2023-24 pay offer is significantly better than the national pay offer from the University and College’s Employer’s Association (UCEA) 2023-24 offer to the institutes involved in national pay bargaining. Here we refute this claim.
There is little doubt that Imperial is better off financially than the average UK university, as past surpluses confirm. In fact, it would be a source of embarrassment if we lagged behind given our deserved reputation for attracting research funding and students, a good proportion paying overseas fees. So, it is fair to ask how much more is Imperial’s 2023-24 pay offer worth compared to the UCEA offer, which, necessarily has to be affordable not just to the average UK university, but to those struggling financially.
We have used College’s figures to make a direct comparison between the two offers, applying the terms of both offers to the same distribution of staff pay at Imperial. By adding together the costs from each quantile of 250 staff, grouped in salary order, we can compare the overall cost of the two offers.
First, it is important to understand what each offer amounts to: UCEA’s gives an early payment in February and then tops that up to 5% in August. Imperial has an early payment in May, and then tops it up to the larger of 5.5% or £2500 in August. Hence UCEA’s offer gives three months of extra payments compared to Imperial’s. To take that into account in a fair manner, we calculate the total cost of either offer from February 2023 to August 2024, when the next pay settlement is due. We also apply the terms of both offers to all staff. All UCEA members we are aware of have already started paying the February element of the offer to all staff, even though UCU nationally are in dispute over this.
In fact, the details of each offer tend to play off against each other’s – UCEA gives a smaller early payment but in February, not May, and, while Imperial is offering 0.5% more, it also has a maximum of £5000 while UCEA members are applying 5% across the board. Taking all of these effects into account, Imperial’s offer will cost it just 0.24% more than UCEA’s up to August 2024: while the Imperial offer is worth more than UCEA’s it hardly reflects the ability of Imperial to pay its staff more.
Finally, some of you may have noticed that Imperial is claiming its offer is worth on average 7.1%. That is quite a remarkable number considering the cost of the offer, according to College, is significantly less than that. In fact, that 7.1% figure has been calculated by combining the May increase as a lump sum, and then adding that to the 5.5% increase in August (plus a small error in weighting the lowest paid quantile that adds 0.1%). Apart from the error, this approach might be a valid calculation in comparing the Imperial offer to UCEA’s but it is not actually what the offer amounts to as a consolidated salary rise: it effectively inflates the 5.5% rise with a one-off payment.
Imperial’s management are trying to give the impression that their offer is worth significantly more than the 0.5% difference in the headline rate of 5.5% compared to UCEA’s 5.0%. In fact it will cost them 0.24%, slightly less than half of 0.5% more to implement compared to UCEA’s. Imperial can afford to do rather better than that.
Full calculations can be seen in this spreadsheet: ImperialvsUCEAOffersCompWeb