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Sandra Booth, Director of Policy and External Relations for the Council for Higher Education in Art & Design (CHEAD), reviews a week of higher education news in which concerns emerged over universities’ financial stability due to Covid-19 and the impact of the crisis on students.

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Amid predictions that higher education will be changed forever by the current pandemic, Professor James Miller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Glasgow Caledonian University, suggests the innovative ways the sector is responding to the crisis will make it even more valued in the future.

New norms highlight the value of scientific experts and research collaboration

The current crisis has underlined the critical role played by the UK’s experts and researchers and the institutions supporting them, as well as the need for collaboration between them, says Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business.

Universities ready to respond to new ethnic pay gap reporting rules

jovannig / 123RF

Universities will be “willing contributors” in the drive to publish ethnic minority pay differentials and some already make the data public, according to an equality think tank.

Prime Minister Theresa May has announced plans to introduce a new obligation on public bodies and private companies to reveal how much employees from ethnic minorities are paid compared with their white counterparts in a move that will mirror the gender pay gap audit carried out last year.

A consultation will be launched shortly and the figures could be published by the end of next year.

Universities already supply a range of data on staff employment and pay, broken down by ethnicity, to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

The data has been used by the former Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), now part of Advance HE, to analyse sector-wide pay differentials in its HE Staff Statistical Report 2018.

It shows that in 2016 the median salary of UK BME academic staff was £44,240, compared to £46,375 for UK White academics - a pay gap of 4.6 per cent. However, black academic staff had a median salary of just £41,709, highlighting the potentially wide variation between ethnic groups.

For professional and support staff, UK BME median pay was actually higher than for White staff, at £27,188 compared with £26,829. But the mean pay for BME professional and support staff was lower than their White colleagues, at £29,492 against £30, 419 -- a difference of 3 per cent.

A number of universities have chosen to make the data public as part of equality and diversity monitoring, including University College London, SOAS, York and Aberdeen.

A spokesperson for the ECU said: “We believe that the sector would be willing contributors to the proposed consultation and welcome it. We believe it is in the best interest for organisations to be transparent about pay to in order to recruit, retain and motivate a richly diverse staff. Universities are already collecting and reporting this information to HESA.”

Nationally, the plan to publish valid data could pose a problem for employers because there is no obligation for an individual to disclose his or her ethnic group. Among employers who collect the data, some say that the declaration rate is below 50 per cent.

The ECU has published guidance on how to encourage staff and students to feel comfortable disclosing equality information.

In guidance on pay gap information, it recommends including all staff in pay data and occupational segregation gathering and analysis, presenting both mean and median pay gaps to help identify where there may be issues at either end of the pay ranges and include commentary and analysis on the causes and consequences of pay gaps and occupational segregation in key statements and reports.

The body also suggests provide training and support for staff undertaking pay reviews and occupational segregation analyses, as well as “sustained activity” to effect positive changes.

The Office for National Statistics uses 18 standardised ethnic classifications and there is likely to be pressure for employers to provide a detailed breakdown. On average people from ethnic minorities have a lower employment rate, earn less and have worse career advancement but there are wide variations between groups.

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