Highlands & Islands

Gender pay gap 'narrowing' say Scottish universities

Female scientist Image copyright Science Photo Library
Image caption Universities have been criticised for paying women less than men

Four Scottish universities have defended their records on pay for male and female members of staff.

Aberdeen, Glasgow, St Andrews and University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) have been accused of having "significant" gender pay gaps.

The University and College Union (UCU) said the difference in pay amounted to thousands of pounds.

But the universities said UCU had used out of date data that did not reflect "hard work" to redress pay issues.

Biggest gap

The union criticises the universities in its Holding Down Women's Pay report, released to mark International Women's Day.

UCU compiled the gender pay figures using its new online tool, Rate for the job, which allows union members to make comparisons between pay rates at universities.

UHI was found to have the biggest gender pay gap in the UK, according to UCU's tool.

The union said UHI paid female lecturers £18,637 less a year than their male colleagues. The pay gap at Aberdeen was £9,914, Glasgow's £9,244 and St Andrews' £8,699.

UCU Scotland official, Mary Senior, said: "These universities should not have allowed such shameful levels of pay inequality to persist.

"It's nearly 50 years since the Equal Pay Act came into force and they're still flying in the face of it.

"Today on International Women's Day, we'd like to see a firm commitment from sector leaders to close the gap and are offering to work with institutions to put an end to pay inequality."

'Small number'

UHI is a partnership of 13 colleges and research institutions spread across the Highlands, Western Isles, Northern Isles, Moray and Argyll.

A spokesman for the university said UHI recognised that it did have a gender pay gap, but it was not of the "magnitude" suggested by UCU.

He said: "The figure and gap quoted derive from the data the university submitted to Higher Education Statistics Agency in 2013/14 in respect of the small number of staff - 44 - who had academic roles and were employed directly by the university.

"A number of these roles represent the academic staff within the Centre for History and the Centre for Health Sciences, but a significant number are senior roles with pan-university responsibilities."

Aberdeen University said the UCU figures were not up to date.

A spokesman said: "We have worked extremely hard to redress gender pay issues. Our current gender pay gap for lecturers is 1% and for senior lecturers is 2.5%.

"The professorial pay gap has reduced in recent years to a level of 7% and we continue to address this matter through our senior staff pay policy."

'Significant progress'

Glasgow said it was fully committed to gender pay equality.

A spokesperson added: "The gender pay gap across the majority of our grades falls well within statistically permitted parameters including those encompassing lecturer, senior lecturer and reader.

"The impact of professorial zoning continues to narrow the gap at a senior level."

Prof Verity Brown, vice-principal for enterprise and engagement at St Andrews, said the university had made "significant progress" in recent years to tackle pay gaps.

She said: "Our figures for 2015 show that the gender pay gap among lecturers in St Andrews is £173 per year, nowhere near the figure of over £8,000 quoted by the union.

"We are committed to continuing to address gender pay gaps across all grades of staff and like many universities have made strong and significant progress in recent years."

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