They vs. Us: wage disparity among university employees (1)

Be it private or public university, wage issues attract the interest of all employees at all levels. Wage determination among university employees is one of the thorniest and discussed issue among university employees and also the concern of universities regulatory authorities. In Ghana, while subject matter may be less fierce among public universities because of government subvention, it is almost non-negotiable among private universities. This articles will dwell more on the disparity among private university employees in Ghana.

The beckoning difficulty in Ghana is that there is no published salary range of university staff. Whatever goes into the base calculation is most seen as a determination by the owners of the university rather than a policy regulated activity. I am wondering if there is a measure for determining how wages among private universities employees should be measured and whether there is a determinant for the fairest way to compare the levels of wages associated with the different ranks.

The university as a global place of learning must conform to certain universal standards if they are to become competitive in training graduates for global impact. Therefore the university anywhere must reflect an image that matches the global standard but with local relevance in terms of content and economic levels of the living. It is no doubt home students pay less than international students. This enforces the right to education at affordable fee to home students.

The argument of “They” vs. “Us” is a raging argument between management and faculty of private universities in Ghana. “They” represents management and “Us” represents faculty. Usually major of persons in management are not members of faculty. While management are of the view that deserve to earn more money, faculty also thinks that they directly train students therefore the outcome of students performance is largely the responsibility of faculty therefore they must be paid more.

There is also the aspect of support staff that supports both faculty and management in other to get their work going smoothly. They include librarians, gardeners, cleaners, drivers, etc. Without these groups of staff the university’s work will not be effective. Also there is another very important mix which is staff who are both in management and faculty.

Before considering university employee wages, I will like to lay the canvas on which to develop any wage argument of private universities in Ghana. Private universities in Ghana generate their income solely through students’ enrollment. This mean that if enrollment is low funding will be low as well. This oscillation makes it difficult to generally peg salaries at premium rate when owners of the university are not certain about levels of funding.

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In the foregoing paragraphs, I will enumerate on the various work groups of employees by determining the veracity of their work and propose what their wage should look like so as to bridge the disparity. The management structure may vary from one university to the other but basically their roles of work be same or intertwine as follows:

  1. Management

Depending on the organogram of the university, management employees may strictly be senior administrative officers. They ensure the daily administration of the university. In a narrow sense, management staff of a university are those who are fully employed by the university and work on full time basis. They are neither members of faculty nor part time employees.

In Ghana, on the top of the management positions is the Vice Chancellor or President or Rector. There are instances where the President or Rector is the founder of the university and in those instances one can imagine what the wages for the position will be like. In many instances, the President or Rector is an employee of the founders and/or financiers of the university. In those instances, the salary are determined by the founders and/or financiers.

There are other top management positions under the Vice Chancellor or President or Rector. They include Head of Finance, Director of Operations, Human Resource Director, Administrative Registrar, etc. The wage structure of these categories of managers are high. They are usually determined by the standards of colleagues with same qualifications in industry. Though there may be differences with industry depending on the particularly industry and the size of business. Simply put, the wages of university management employees may in a way reflect the salary of management employees in industry.

  1. Faculty    

There are 2 categories of faculty employees. Full time and part-time. Full time consists of tenured and tenure-track. Tenured faculty are those whose employment with the university is guaranteed till their pension. These are employees whose work with the university have proven to be of top quality performance and therefore the university will not easily dispose of them.

Tenure-track are those faculty whose work are of good quality and terms of engagement are renewed on term basis. Unlike part-time or adjunct whose contact hours with the university are purely based on teaching time, tenure-track have continuous employment with the university but contract terms are renewed on term basis.

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In the strict sense of universities existence, faculty employees are seen as those who impact students directly and upon whose shoulders the university rides. They expect to be paid more than other employees but that may not be the case in Ghana. Depending on the faculty’s engagement with the university, level of qualification and particularly the field of discipline. If the field of discipline is in high demand and qualified personnel are few, it may attract high salary but as to whether that may be more than that of a top level management employee remain the determination of the university.

Furthermore, there is another group of university employees who are only research faculty. This phenomenon is not common in private universities in Ghana and even in the public universities I doubt how many of such employees are in existence. The fact remain simple that the level of research in Ghanaian universities have not risen to the point where universities will engage full-time employees whose responsibilities is only research.

Usually research employees who are employed full-time are in the field of the sciences. Since the level of science studies in Ghanaian universities are at low levels, it goes without saying that such not much exist in terms of wage discussion in that area. It is expected that if Ghanaian universities are to leapfrog to compete with the standards of other universities of international standards then they have to begin to seriously consider engaging full-time employees in research.

There is yet another level of faculty who are teaching and research assistants. While teaching assistants assists full-time faculty in teaching and sometime marking of examination scripts, research assistants helps in undertaking research projects by the university. They are assigned to specific departments in the university. Their research are usually for publication rather than implementation. Generally aspects of research in Ghanaian universities are not much as expected and very few gets published in world renounced academic journals.

The wages differentials between teaching assistants and research assistants versus lower management staff may be based on their levels of qualifications. Their qualifications are lower than full faculty therefore is it obvious their wages will correspondingly be low but as to how it compares to colleague employees of low level management may also be determined by the management of the university.

Whether or not the wage disparity will be determined by their qualification, quantum of work, and duration of work with the university are all decided by the management of the university.

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