Who is the highest paid professor

Switzerland pays university professors the highest wages

Swiss universities pay their professors by far the highest wages in the world. This is the conclusion reached by a comparison carried out exclusively for “NZZ am Sonntag”. A full professor in Switzerland earns around 17,000 francs per month.

The competition on the international education market is getting bigger and bigger. But at least as far as wages are concerned, Switzerland is in the best position when it comes to recruiting the brightest minds in the world: the universities here pay their professors by far the highest wages in a global comparison. This is shown by data collected by the “NZZ am Sonntag” for Switzerland and evaluated by Gregory Androushchak from the Higher School of Economics in Moscow.

According to this comparison, which is available for the first time, a full professor in Switzerland, for example, receives an average of CHF 17,000 gross per month on twelve salaries, which is CHF 3,000 more than in Canada and almost twice as much as in Germany (see graphic). In order to be able to compare the figures, the wages were adjusted for purchasing power in relation to Swiss francs. So they illustrate what the income of a foreign professor in Switzerland would be worth.

"Productive Universities"

The data for the other 28 countries come from the recently published study “Paying the Professoriate”. In the analysis - published under the direction of Philip Altbach from the Center for International Higher Education in Boston - three dozen authors examine not only the remuneration of professors, but also the social significance of this profession. According to Androushchak's calculations, the salary of a full professor in Switzerland is three times as high as the gross domestic product per inhabitant - a measure that can be used as an indicator of the average income in a country. “This means that Switzerland also has the highest relative academic salaries among the developed countries,” says the economist.

However, top wages alone do not say anything about the quality of higher education in a country. "The fact that Swiss universities hold their own so well in international competition also has to do with the fact that they are extremely productive in research," explains Philip Altbach. "Switzerland has several top universities - this is unusual for such a small country."

The economic and social status of a professor also depends on fringe benefits and bonuses - especially in countries where salaries are very low. The differences here are very large and hardly quantifiable, as Altbach's study shows.

For example, professors in Ethiopia or Japan are financially supported with housing costs. In Mexico, every professor receives a frozen turkey for Christmas. And India is emphasizing its population policy through the university employees: Professors are paid for a vasectomy, that is, the severing of the vas deferens as a contraceptive measure; Female professors can have their uterus removed at the expense of the state.

“I didn't expect the differences in pay to be so pronounced,” explains Philip Altbach. "In some countries professors can hardly live on their salaries." In Kazakhstan, for example, university members earn half of what people with comparable qualifications get in other professions. Professors in Russia are similarly poorly paid, even though wages there have "risen by one and a half times" since 2008 - most of the data in the international comparison comes from this year, as Gregory Androushchak says.

Ethiopia surprised

And yet the researchers have sometimes been pleasantly surprised when analyzing their data. The salary of a full professor in Ethiopia is around thirty times the gross domestic product per inhabitant - a clear indication of how much university teachers are valued in Ethiopian society.

The result of the international wage comparison is positive for Switzerland, but viewed across the world, the conclusion of the education researchers is sobering: "Most professors do not have particularly good times: their salaries cannot keep pace with inflation." Their general working conditions also deteriorated against the background that higher education is becoming a mass phenomenon, as Altbach believes. In many countries, university professors no longer have high prestige, and at the same time the conditions for the few “super professors” at the top are getting better and better. "The academic profession has diverged as never before."

This growing inequality is not only manifested in the wage gap between nations. The gap is also widening between universities within a country. This is proven by the study by Altbach and his colleagues, but approaches to this can even be observed in wealthy Switzerland. The previously unpublished gross salary comparison of the Swiss University Conference shows that a full professor at the ETH Zurich and Lausanne can earn up to 90,000 francs more per year than at the small and young University of Lucerne (see table).

Altbach also notes that in most countries salaries also vary between the various academic disciplines, with wages typically being higher in medicine or law and economics, “where universities compete with other sectors of the labor market for talent stand". Corresponding figures are not available for Switzerland, but it is noticeable that at least the basic wages at the University of St. Gallen - a classic business school - are not out of the ordinary in a national comparison.

Worldwide, the differences between the top research universities and the mass institutions that are “lower in the academic pecking order” are growing, according to Altbach's study. This is not yet the case in Switzerland. This may also have something to do with the fact that in this country only 18 percent of a year go to university. However, there is no guarantee that Switzerland will be able to maintain its top position. Because that is also a finding: classic research nations such as the USA, Japan and Germany are now struggling to attract the best talent.

Philip G. Altbach et al .: Paying the Professoriate. A Global Comparison of Compensation and Contracts. Routledge, New York 2012. 370 pages, Fr. 58.90.

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