Based on the 2018/19 HE Single Pay Spine and the typical 2019/20 university grade system, the average possible salary for university staff in the UK is: £40,761 for a Lecturer, £51,590 for a Senior Lecturer, £64,356 for an Associate Professor and £90,891 for a Professor.
On this page, we discuss how the UK academic pay scale works, the average salaries of university lecturers and professors, and how they change with academic rank. While we’ve summarised the salaries at the top of this page, we go on to provide a full breakdown for each rank, so continue reading for the full picture.
How Salary Scales Work within UK Universities
In the United Kingdom, there is a single national pay spine that governs the salaries of university staff. The pay spine, formally known as the ‘HE Single Pay Spine’, is led by University and College Union (UCU) which negotiates salaries, pay structure and employment conditions on behalf of higher education (HE) and further education (FE) institutions.
It’s important to recognise that although the vast majority of UK universities adopt the HE Single Pay Spine, a handful of institutions do not. In such cases, staff salaries are regulated internally and may differ from those stated on this page.
Many considerations go into determining a staff member’s salary, but to summarise, staff members are assigned a grade based on their level of responsibility, experience and position (e.g. Lecturer, Senior Lecturer or Professor) and a corresponding spine value. In turn, the spine value corresponds to a pre-determined salary listed in the ‘HE Single Pay Spine’.
Note: London universities generally offer slightly higher Lecturer and Professor salaries, but this is only to offset the higher cost of living associated with working in the capital. This offset, more commonly referred to as a ‘London Allowance’, is typically in the region of £3,000 per year.
Average Salaries of University Lecturers and Professors in the UK
Based on the 2018/19 HE Single Pay Spine and the average 2019/20 grading levels adopted by three UK universities, we have determined the average salaries of research assistants, lecturers and professors as shown in the table below.
Note: Although the average salaries provide a quick, useful insight, it would be equally advantageous to know the salary range for each position, as academic salaries are relatively dynamic; the reason for this is discussed later.
Table showing average salaries and ranges for Research Assistants, Lecturers and Professors in the UK
|Academic Title||Average Salary (per year)||Salary Range (per year)|
|Graduate Research Assistant||£30,760||£26,715 – £34,804|
|Associate Lecturer||£30,760||£26,715 – £34,804|
|Postdoctoral Research Assistant||£31,990||£29,176 – £34,804|
|Lecturer||£40,761||£34,804 – £46,718|
|Research Fellow||£40,761||£34,804 – £46,718|
|Senior Lecturer||£51,590||£44,045 – £59,135|
|Senior Research Fellow||£51,590||£44,045 – £59,135|
|Associate Professor||£64,356||£55,750 – £72,962|
|Professor||£90,891||£68,531 – £113,251|
The following image shows these salary ranges in the context of the typical progression paths observed for higher education positions within UK universities.
It is worth noting that while salaries can exceed £100,000 per year for positions with significant managerial responsibility, very few individuals will reach these positions. In fact, data from the Office for Students (OfS) shows that in 2017/18, only 1.5% of academic staff were paid over £100,000.
How Salary Increases Works
Salary Increases within a Grade
The expectation is that each year, staff members will move up the spine scale and receive a pay increase in line with their new spine level. This will continue until the ceiling of their current grade is reached. At that point, with the exception of inflation-adjusted increases, the staff member will stop receiving wage increases until they move up a grade.
Note: The grade of a staff member reflects the level of responsibility they have, which usually coincides with their job title, i.e. whether they are a Lecturer, an Associate Professor or a Professor.
Moving up a grade is only possible when the responsibilities of a staff member increase noticeably or when they are promoted to a higher position, such as from a Senior Lecturer to an Associate Professor.
As with most professions, a university Lecturer or Professor’s job position comes with non-monetary benefits that complement their salary. These will vary between universities, and sometimes even within the same university, but can include:
- Allowances for travel or relocation,
- Discounted or fully waived access to training, university courses and on-site recreational facilities,
- Private healthcare,
- A Pension.
UK vs US Lecturer and Professor Salaries
Unlike the United Kingdom, the United States does not have a national academic pay scale. This means that the salaries of Lectures and Professors in the US vary considerably not only between universities but also between states, institution types (public or private) and academic fields.
In addition, because the US does not have a national academic pay scale, it’s common for staff members to negotiate a pay increase when moving to a new institution. This is not generally the case in the UK as it would place staff members outside of the single pay spine.
According to ‘The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2018-2019‘, produced by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the average university lecturer salary and average university professor salary within the United States is as per the comparison table below.
Table comparing average salaries for Lectures and Professors in the UK and the US
|Academic Title||Average UK Salary (per year)||Average US Salary (per year)|
|Associate Professor||£64,356||£67,255 ($87,344)|
It should be noted that the US salaries stated above have the potential to be skewed. This is because the data provides a total sum only for the number of universities forming the data, and not for the number of staff members holding each position type.