GLOBAL: US academics top salaries ranking

US academics enjoy higher salaries than those in any of the main English-speaking countries, even when their purchasing power parity is taken into account, while New Zealanders bring up the rear. A new report shows that the purchasing power of professorial salaries at selected US universities is almost US$114,000 a year - $11,600 more than professors receive in Australia, $13,000 more than in Canada, $32,000 more than in the UK and a whopping $36,200 more than their lowly-paid New Zealand cousins.

At the other end of the career ladder, US lecturers earn $70,700 a year adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP) while Canadian lecturers are paid $65,500, Australians $59,000, Britons $50,500 and New Zealanders just $44,900.

Since the last survey was conducted in 2005, England and New Zealand swapped places at the bottom of the league table - thanks to big increases in the purchasing power of British academic salaries in the past three years.
The report was prepared by consulting firm Deloitte for the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors Committee as part of a tripartite working group involving the Association of University Staff and the government. It was published amid calls from the committee and the association for increased government funding to address the serious gap between New Zealand's academic salaries and those of near neighbour Australia.

The report was based on the current salary scales of five US universities ranked in the top 30 to 100 American universities, Australia's "Group of Eight" top universities, six Canadian universities, University College London's application of the UK's national university "pay spine", and the salary scales of all eight New Zealand universities.

It updated the research conducted in 2005 and found that since then the purchasing power of academic salaries had increased significantly in four of the five nations considered. British academics enjoyed the biggest increases - ranging from 23% to 29%, followed by New Zealand with increases of 14% to 18% depending on rank. US academics' purchasing power increased from 16% to 18% and Australians' by 13% to 14% while the value of Canadian academic salaries increased just 8% to 9% depending on rank.

The report converted all salary information to US dollars using an average of the Economist's "Big Mac" currency index, the World Bank PPP index and the OECD PPP to ensure they were comparable.

The report was published just days after the New Zealand government's budget delivered a NZ$15 million (US$11.7 million) a year boost to university funding, specifically for pay rises. The increase was the third in as many years but also the smallest to date and is likely to deliver a pay rise of 1.5 to 1.8% to academics on top of whatever universities themselves might agree to in negotiations.

President of the Association of University Staff, Associate Professor Maureen Montgomery, said the Deloitte report showed that more funding increases were needed to prevent the pay difference with Australia from ballooning. Montgomery also warned that Australian university staff had lodged a claim for pay rises totalling 27% over three years, an increase they were confident of achieving.

But Australia's wealthy Group of Eight universities warned they would have to impose staff redundancies if the salary claim by the National Tertiary Education Union was adopted.

New Zealand Vice-Chancellors Committee chair Professor Roger Field said the government's contribution to salaries should be going up, not down. Field also noted that other countries had more favourable superannuation schemes for academics than New Zealand.
The report can be viewed here

* John Gerritsen is editor of NZ Education Review.