Cost of Living vs University Wages

We are currently in a cost of living crisis, due to how high inflation is (pictured to the right), which is affecting workers considerably. With the cost of living disproportionately increasing compared to wages people are struggling. Higher Education is just one of the industries that have been hit hard by this.

As a result of the cost of living, many Union members across a variety of Universities are striking. Staff had previously asked for a pay increase 2% above the rate of inflation (which is 9.9% and rising). The strikes began due to some staff rejecting a 3% pay award in May. They started on 20th September and are continuing throughout October.

We spoke to the Consultants here at Burman to see if they had noticed any changes to recruitment due to the cost of living crisis. The results were interesting;


Are pay expectations similar?

All consultants agreed that there was a difference in pay expectations between clients and candidates. Most stated that clients are very in tune with the market but there is still often a disparity; with more senior roles having an even bigger gap.


Has pay increased?

Most consultants haven’t noticed much of a pay increase in their sector but that many clients are more flexible with movement on budgets. Most clients will initially offer a lower salary but will move to be more in line with candidate expectations.  


Is there a focus on pay?  

100% of candidates have noticed that money is the main motivator when looking for a new role.

*Contract – money is a key focus with many people upping their day rates or being concerned about whether the role is outside IR35

Permanent -  again, money is a main focus for roles; whether asking for higher wages or purely focusing on pension schemes or travel expenses.

In a recent poll, we also asked our LinkedIn followers what they look for most in a new role;  our most voted option was salary and benefits.


Many Universities have awarded bonuses and pay increases which is why not all Universities are experiencing strike action. However, 22 Universities have had members strike/ vote to strike as their pay increases have not reflected the inflation rate.

Our findings, and the fact many Univerisities are striking shows, how the cost of living is massively affecting HE professionals. With pay becoming a main motivator for many candidates does this mean they will choose pay over the role itself? 


Food for thought….

Could the call for pay increases result in cuts within Univerisities? If staff are calling for an increase in wages will Univerisity funding be able to stretch to all areas?


References: Unison members to strike at 22 UK universities | Times Higher Education (THE) | University staff vote to strike over ‘ludicrously low’ pay rise | News, Press release | News | UNISON National | Consumer price inflation, UK - Office for National Statistics | Quarterly Energy Prices UK April to June 2022 ( | | Unison members to strike at 22 UK universities | Times Higher Education (THE)