US: Exploring academic salaries globally

A small number of studies have attempted to compare faculty salaries internationally, but only a few have cast a wide geographic net and included countries of varied levels of national and economic development, write Iván Pacheco and Laura E Rumbley in the latest edition of International Higher Education. In 2007 the Boston College Center for International Higher Education launched an exploratory project attempting to do just that - collecting and comparing salary data (in World Bank PPP dollars) from 15 countries and one territory, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, the UK, US and Palestine. The study found that overall average monthly salaries ranged from $1,182 in China to $6,038 in Canada. These findings produced an international average of $4,856 per month.

Examining faculty compensation around the world can reveal the value individual societies attribute to the academic enterprise and those who carry it forward, write Pacheco and Rumbley in a summary of their article. "This work can highlight the factors that affect how academic staff are compensated in different countries. And, it may also add much-needed insight into the phenomena of brain drain and brain gain." Iván Pacheco is a graduate research assistant and doctoral student in higher education administration, and Laura Rumbley is a research associate, at Boston College.

To put some of this information in context, the researchers looked at countries' relative positions on the Human Development Index of the United Nations Development Programme for comparative analysis. "Not surprisingly, the countries of less advanced 'human development' exhibited lower average salaries than those considered to have higher levels of human development." But there were exceptions to this rule, they write:

"For example, Saudi Arabia, ranked no. 61 on the HDI, consistently outpaced average salary levels in Australia (no. 3), the United Kingdom (no. 16), Japan (no. 8), Germany (no. 22), and France (no. 10). South Africa also bucked this trend to some degree. With an HDI ranking of 121, South Africa registered a higher entry-level salary average than Malaysia (no. 63), Colombia (no. 75), and China (no. 81). Even more notable, in a comparison of top-level salary averages, South Africa showed higher levels of compensation than 10 of the 15 countries studied - including Australia, the United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, and France. Meanwhile, the Chinese higher education system consistently came in dead last in the international comparison of salary averages."

Full summary on the International Higher Education site