Students back call for Living Wage Universities

By agency reporter
September 19, 2018

 A new poll of University students has found a huge majority are concerned that University Vice-chancellor salaries are too high and have come at the expense of the low paid workers like cleaners, caterers and security guards. Many staff are working on campuses on hourly pay well below the real Living Wage rate of £8.75 an hour, the amount a worker needs to meet the real cost of living despite vice Chancellors pay now averaging £255,000 per annum. 

Nine in 10 students polled supported all staff at Universities being paid a real Living Wage, whilst 86 per cent thought Vice Chancellor salaries were too high and should be cut. 

Barely a fifth of universities currently pay a Living Wage to all workers. This is despite University Vice-chancellors receiving inflation busting pay rises and students paying record tuition fees.  University chiefs now earn on average 50 per cent more than a typical local Council Chief Executive and over £100,000 more per year than Prime Minister Theresa May. Russell Group Vice Chancellors earn on average £298,910, nearly twice as much as the Prime Minister.  

In response to the findings faith leaders, academics and student leaders have called for universities to listen to their students and workers and commit to pay workers a real Living Wage. 

The Living Wage Foundation polled 1473 University students and found that:   

  • 92 per cent of students believe all university workers should be paid a Living Wage   
  • 31 per cent of which believe this should be paid for by capping Vice-chancellor (VC) pay   
  • 86 per cent of students believe VC pay should be lowered   
  • 54 per cent of students believe VC pay should be less than half their current average (the average VC is paid approximately £290k)   
  • This is despite 58 per cent of students underestimating current average VC pay by at least £90k   

  Polling also found that over half (53 per cent) of students said they would be more likely to support their university post-graduation if they paid a real Living Wage to staff instead of the government minimum.

Will Ranger, a leader from Greater Manchester Citizens and Manchester University Living Wage campaign said: “Students are shocked to hear that the staff protecting us at night and cleaning our halls aren’t paid enough to cover the cost of living. Vice Chancellors are awarding themselves huge pay rises and spending money to get poorer families into University but failing to pay a real Living Wage to all staff.”   

The Rev Joanne Thorns, North East Churches Acting Together, said: "Paying someone a decent wage that allows them to support themselves and their families is, put simply, the right thing to do.  Our universities have received a huge financial boost from the increase in tuition fees and often boast about how much they add to the local economy, which of course is true.  However, if the backbone of the universities, the cleaners, caterers, security, maintenance staff and others are not being paid enough to live on and their children are going to school hungry what message does that send?" 

Tess Lanning, Director, Living Wage Foundation said: “Universities are important employers and civic institutions for many towns and cities across the country. We want universities to show leadership by committing to ensure everyone earns a real Living Wage based on what they need to get by, not just the government minimum. Our research shows that students agree. When universities set pay scales for those at the very top of the organisation, the basic test of fairness is whether their cleaning and catering staff earn a wage that they can live on.”  

Edmund Heery, Professor of Employment Relations, Cardiff Business School said: “Universities should pay the Living Wage because it can help improve their performance and enhance their corporate reputation. Paying the Living Wage is also highly beneficial to University workers and helps Universities discharge their social obligation to the communities in which they are located”  

* Living Wage Foundation https://www.livingwage.org.uk/

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