Gender pay gap: UK universities report slow progress

Experts warn much more left to do to reduce inequality, as male advantage grows at 46 institutions

April 8, 2019
Gender pay gap

UK universities are making slow progress in their bid to close the gender pay gap, latest figures show, with male employees’ advantage having widened even further at one in five institutions.

Last year, university leaders came under fire after the first official gender pay gap data showed that women in UK universities were paid a mean hourly wage that was, on average, 15.9 per cent lower than their male colleagues.

One year on, analysis by Times Higher Education shows that figure has changed little, with it now standing at 15.1 per cent. The median average gap, which tends to reduce the effect of outliers, was 14.8 per cent for 2018, widening from 14 per cent the previous year.

Of the 228 higher education institutions to have published data for the 2018 year, 46 were shown to have widened their gap since the first reporting exercise.

At Bournemouth Arts University, the mean pay gap grew by 4.7 percentage points in 2018, from 10.3 per cent to 15 per cent. Bishop Grosseteste University’s gap rose by 4.1 percentage points, and both the Royal Agricultural University and the University of Surrey saw their gender pay gaps widen by 2.9 per cent.

Universities reporting largest growth in gender pay gap

Institution Mean average hourly rate (% lower than men), 2018 Mean average hourly rate (% lower than men), 2017 Change (% point)
Arts University Bournemouth 15 10.3 4.7
Bishop Grosseteste University 10.4 6.3 4.1
Royal Agricultural University 17.1 14.2 2.9
University of Surrey 17 14.1 2.9
Loughborough University 27.1 24.3 2.8

While every institution still reported a gender pay gap in favour of men, 192 universities managed to reduce their mean average hourly pay gap by 0.1 per cent or more.

Of those who made the most progress, Falmouth University tops the table with a mean average gap of 14.3 per cent – 8.2 percentage points smaller than the previous year.

Universities reporting largest reduction in gender pay gap

Institution Mean average hourly rate (% lower than men), 2018 Mean average hourly rate (% lower than men), 2017 Change (% point)
Falmouth University 14.3 22.5 -8.2
Queen Mary University of London 13.7 21.7 -8.0
York St John University 11.5 18.4 -6.9
Harper Adams University 22.6 27.7 -5.1
University of Bolton 14.1 17.9 -3.8

The University of Worcester remains the institution with the smallest mean pay gap, with the male advantage shrinking from 3.2 per cent to 2.1 per cent this year.

At the other end of the scale, London Business School still has the largest gap, of 44.8 per cent – although this was a slight improvement on last year’s figure of 45 per cent. Loughborough and Lancaster universities, the University of Warwick and the Royal Veterinary College continue to pay their male staff at least 25 per cent more, on average.

Warwick and Loughborough attributed their figures to the fact that they do not outsource recruitment for lower-paid jobs such as cleaning services.

Helen Carr, head of equality at University and College Union, cautioned that the reported figures only told part of the story.  

“Simply reporting on the gap is not enough. The terribly slow pace of change will only be sped up when universities publish action plans that set out how and when they will reduce the gap,” she said.

“For years we have heard enlightened rhetoric in higher education about the issue of unfair pay for women, what we really need are clear commitments on how institutions will reduce the gap and when.”

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Reader's comments (8)

Do we still have to suffer this tired and arbitarary metric being trotted out as if it had anything to say? There may well be gender inequalities within universities, but this blunt instrument is not the best tool to even measure, let alone address, them. Look to providing opportunities for women to advance, look to providing a culture in which they feel able to flourish... and find a way to measure what's going on that, er, actually tells us what is going on. Shouldn't be beyond the wit of academic, surely?
Where can the data for this article be found? Is it freely available?
Hi, yes you can search for all the reporting companies on the website:
How did you work out the overall means and medians. I couldn't work out how to do that on the Gov Uk website. Also, a little query about this part of the article" "The median average gap, which tends to reduce the effect of outliers, was 14.8 per cent for 2018, widening from 14 per cent the previous year." Was that supposed to be 14.8 per cent for 2019, not 2018?
Numbers do not the full story tell, especially when you start looking at 'averages' in isolation, too many ASSume that pay inequality isn't being addressed when it is, equal pay for work of equal value is now embedded and working well, playing this game using 'averages' is disingenuous at best.
The University that I work at, isn't in the list that rpells linked to .. should it be? (There are more than 250 employees) Skimming the list, it's not the only Scottish University that's not on the list.
This statistic is meaningless. The gender pay gap is real. But this brute statistic tells us nothing useful.
There is also pay inequality within genders. We should be striving for equality for all, assigning labels simply blurs the issue. Averaging data does not help identify root causes but simply makes for emotive headlines. Looking at the report for my female led University, women's mean pay is lower than that for men , but there are more women in the top pay quartile. Can we conclude that measures have resulted in increasing women's pay at a leadership level but have ignored the issue at the other end of the scale ? That doesn't look like a more equitable environment to me.