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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 October 2018

Meagre pay rise angers academics

Academics at Zayed University have dismissed a five per cent pay increase for non-Emirati staff as "a slap in the face".

Academics at Zayed University have dismissed a five per cent pay increase for non-Emirati staff as "a slap in the face". Faculty members say the increase, revealed in an e-mail to staff from the central administration office, means that pay is failing to keep pace with rising costs in the UAE, where the inflation rate last year was 11.1 per cent. Emiratis, however, are to receive an increase of 28 per cent of basic salary, or a minimum of Dh2,000 per month.

Zayed University (ZU), which was founded in 1998 and has campuses in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sweihan, recently became the first federal institution to gain accreditation from the US Middle States Commission on Higher Accreditation. A female ZU academic, who asked not to be named, said the pay increases for non-Emirati staff were "ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous". "It's absolutely a slap in the face. These increases are after the university has been accredited. This is not good. The credit should go to the faculty," she said.

"I think they will not be able to recruit good faculty. Faculty will leave, there's no doubt about it. Morale has been very low." Six months ago, the Federal National Council was told that academics at ZU and the other federal universities, UAE University and the Higher Colleges of Technology, were leaving over pay. Now there are fears that there could be more resignations following the pay offer, which one male academic, who asked not to be named, said had left him "gutted". The pay rise was particularly disappointing, he said, because staff had been told to expect "significant" increases.

"There's disappointment on the campus as far as I can see and real concern." The e-mail sent to staff revealed that non-Emirati academics would receive a five per cent "merit" increase if their performance, as assessed this year, was adequate. While some non-academic staff would also receive five per cent rises, others would get only three per cent, again subject to a performance assessment. In addition, all non-Emirati staff would receive a Dh400 per month basic salary increase to "offset the impact of inflation". Pay rises are backdated to June 1. Housing costs are paid separately by the university.

Recent years have seen ongoing concerns about funding levels at the federal universities, which include UAE University and the Higher Colleges of Technology. The issue was raised at the FNC earlier this year by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, who said thousands of applicants were being turned down by the federal universities every year due to insufficient funding.

The FNC was also told that academics were resigning as pay rises had failed to keep up with inflation. The funding issue for students was resolved for the 2008-09 academic year by a one-off budget increase that allowed admissions to federal universities to grow to 13,315, a 23 per cent increase on last year's figure of 10,785. At UAE University, staff members warned earlier this year that many academics might leave, also over the pay issue.

Sheikh Nahyan yesterday told The National that he "understood the concern" of staff members over pay. "We are looking at this issue," he said. "Hopefully there will be a solution to this issue soon. "We try to give staff, whether academic or other staff, appropriate and fair compensation and to take into account the inflation rate. It will be discussed with the appropriate authorities." Dr Sulaiman al Jassim, the university's vice president, could not be contacted for a comment. @Email:dbardsley@thenational.ae