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University staff face 20% pay cuts as universities deal with financial fall-out of Covid-19

Staff are facing pay cuts of up to 20% as the pandemic leaves universities in dire financial straits.

Employees at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) could lose thousands of pounds from their salaries, while the University of Kent's vice-chancellor has taken a £55,000 cut in her pay, adding: "I cannot overstate the financial challenges we are now facing".

The campus at Christ Church University
The campus at Christ Church University

CCCU's branch of the University and College Union - the UK's largest trade union for academics, lecturers and higher education staff - states it is currently in negotiations with the university.

Its says that, based on the current framework for these negotiations, it is proposed CCCU staff earning between £27,000 and £30,046 could face a 10% salary reduction.

Those earning higher than this would face a 20% pay cut.

This means a member of staff at CCCU currently paid £27,000 could see their income fall to £24,300, while an employee earning £30,500 would see their salary drop by a significant £6,100, to £24,400.

Promotions, pay awards and contribution points would also be paused for a maximum of a year, according to the UCU's website.

The University of Kent
The University of Kent

A spokesman for CCCU said: "We have developed a range of proposed measures designed to protect many jobs, while ensuring the University’s continued financial sustainability and our absolute commitment to a high quality education for all students who choose to study with us.

“Working with the trade unions, we are exploring a range of potential cost saving measures to protect staff jobs wherever possible, one of which includes temporary short time working for some staff during the 20/21 academic year."

They added that those in the £27,000 to £30,046 salary band would not be affected by short time working proposals.

“In planning for any short-term changes, we are firmly prioritising the delivery of learning and teaching. This remains our top priority and is at the heart of our mission and values," they said. "We will be supporting our students throughout, confident that we can deliver a high quality education and student experience.”

Canterbury Christ Church University. Picture: Google Street View
Canterbury Christ Church University. Picture: Google Street View

Meanwhile, at the University of Kent (UKC), staff are facing a year-long pay freeze - with its vice-chancellor agreeing to slash her own salary by 20%, from £277,000 to £221,600.

The UKC is facing a £15million underlying deficit and a further shortfall of between £20m and £35m as it moves into the next academic years.

Its vice-chancellor Professor Karen Cox describes its current financial position as "very challenging".

"The impact of the pandemic means we are facing an unprecedented situation in the university’s history," she explained.

"I cannot overstate the financial challenges we are now facing.

University of Kent vice-chancellor Karen Cox. Picture: Beth Roo
University of Kent vice-chancellor Karen Cox. Picture: Beth Roo

"Given the situation brought about by Covid-19, it is likely we will see a reduction in international student numbers as well as home/EU students.

"This will be on top of the losses we have already incurred through lost accommodation income and a loss of catering and conference income in our third term this year."

While the UKC has already introduced measures to improve its financial sustainability, it is now looking at accessing a government-backed loan scheme and is "having to consider short-term measures which will impact on all staff across the university".

Prof Cox said this includes the possibility of a total, year-long pay freeze for all staff beginning in October.

She added: "Ahead of this discussion, I felt it was only right that I take a voluntary 20% reduction in pay for 12 months and members of the Executive Group have collectively agreed that they too will take a 15% pay cut for 12 months.

The University of Kent
The University of Kent

"We are also finalising the details of a voluntary pay cut scheme for other senior staff and will publish further details at the end of June."

Regarding the UKC's huge underlying deficit, the vice-chancellor said it has been working with its Joint Staff Negotiating and Consultation Committee on a new reward strategy, intended to provide "a competitive offering across all roles and pay scales and increase transparency and consistency around pay at Kent".

The reward strategy includes changes to pay progression, which branch officers at the UKC's UCU said will in many cases "reduce future pay" for staff.

Prof Cox added: "As your Vice-Chancellor, I recognise this is all an incredibly difficult ask. I know just how hard you have all been working during this challenging time.

"However, these measures are vital to the future of the University and only by working together in this way will we achieve financial sustainability in the longer term and be in control of our own destiny as an organisation.

"These proposals are of huge importance to the University and its future. I urge you all to take time to carefully consider them in the light of our financial situation."

The UKC declined to comment further.

CCCU's branch of the UCU has been approached for comment.

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