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UK spends less than international competitors on university staff despite highest tuition fees, report finds

11 September 2018 | last updated: 18 September 2018

The UK spends less on university staff as a proportion current spending than its international competitors*, despite having some of the world's highest tuition fees^, a new report published today has revealed.

The OECD's latest Education at a Glance report shows that the UK's spending on tertiary education staff as a proportion of current expenditure (63%) is lower than both the OECD average (68%) and the EU average (70%). It reveals that the UK is trailing behind competitor countries including France (80%), Belgium (76%) and Germany (67%) when it comes to the proportion of spending invested in staff.

UCU said universities need to recognise that staff are their most important asset and should be the main priority for spending. It added that universities are ignoring the wishes of students who say that investment in staff is a top priority for how their tuition fees should be spent.

The report comes as UCU members in higher education are being balloted for industrial action over pay. The dispute has arisen after employers made a final pay offer of 2% for 2018/19, a move which UCU says does nothing to address the falling value of higher education pay which has declined in real terms by 21% since 2009. The ballot will close on Friday 19 October.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Students at UK universities are paying some of the highest tuition fees in the world but this simply isn't translating into spending on the workforce. UK institutions' proportional spending on staff is failing to match that of many international competitors, even though students have clearly said that this should be a priority for how their tuition fees are spent.

'Universities need to recognise that staff are their most important asset and ensure they invest in them properly - that starts with a fair pay offer.'

* Education at a Glance 2018, Table C6.2, page 315
^ Education at a Glance 2018, Figure C5.1, page 292