Colleges slow to act as pay deal deadline looms

Just 15% of the UK’s higher education institutions (including universities) have implemented a new pay modernisation agreement, despite the deadline being less than six months away.

Only 26 of the 165 institutions in England, Scotland and Wales have put the new deal in place, designed to reform staff pay and conditions, ahead of the 1 August deadline.

Higher education unions are becoming increasingly concerned at the slow rate of progress and are warning of industrial action if the deadline is missed.

Malcolm Keight, deputy general secretary of the higher education union AUT, said that some institutions were “nowhere near” to implementing the new pay agreement.

He blamed a lack of HR capacity and management commitment for this, and accused organisations of spending recent funding on “pet projects” and consultants rather than adequately skilled HR staff.

“Higher education institutes have had almost two years to sort this out,” Keight told Personnel Today. “The vast majority are not geared up for local pay and grading and I can envisage that we are looking at the prospect of localised disputes.”

But the Universities & Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA) said it was confident that the majority of organisations would meet the deadline.
Geoff White, UCEA senior adviser, said progress on the agreement was good when compared to other public sector pay schemes such as the local government ‘single status’ agreement.

“The delays are not just on the employers’ side,” he said. “The approach taken by different unions [during the agreement] has not helped the situation.”

Unions are currently clashing with the UCEA over a separate pay dispute, with the result of a strike ballot due later this month.
It is understood that both sides are keen that any industrial action does not further affect the progress of the pay agreement.

Higher education framework agreement



  • The introduction of a 51-point pay scale.

  • Each organisation has flexibility to develop its own grading structure.

  • The introduction of institution-wide job evaluations.

  • Progression through grades on an equitable and transparent basis.

  • The harmonisation of working hours for all staff groups.

  • Better links between career development and pay progression and a commitment to equal opportunties.

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