Main salary and grading structure


The main salary and grading structure is based on the National Pay Spine. The University implemented the pay and grading structure in 2006, following an agreement between trade unions and higher education employers to modernise pay arrangements in the sector, known as the National Framework Agreement. HERA is used to evaluate all roles and determine on which grade they are placed on the pay structure. The University pays people appropriately for the work they carry out.

The University’s pay structure consists of 10 grades across 55 pay points. The bottom point on the pay structure is for the Oxford Living Wage; points above this follow the National Pay Spine. Each grade has a number of automatic spine points and a number of discretionary spine points (denoted by an *). Staff on grades 1-5 are known as support staff and staff on grade 6-10 are known as academic-related.

The apprentice grade and grade 10a are also shown on the main pay structure but are subject to different arrangements.

Setting pay

Appointments should normally be made to the bottom spine point of the appropriate grade as determined by HERA. Departments considering an appointment above the bottom point of the substantive grade should base any salary offer on the prospective employee’s existing salary, aiming to recruit at the minimum point necessary to secure the appointment.

Whenever it is proposed that an appointment is made to a salary above the bottom point of the appropriate grade, departments should verify the stated current salaries of appointees before confirming any salary offer by asking a successful candidate to provide evidence of current salary, for example a recent pay-slip.


Underfilling of posts

Normally, posts will be filled at the substantive post grade. However, in certain circumstances a post may be filled one grade lower than the substantive post grade whenever:

  1. the post has been advertised quoting alternative grades
  2. the candidate to be appointed lacks the necessary experience to carry out the full duties of the post at the post grade
  3. a specific adjustment of the post duties has been made

Where a post is underfilled a development plan should be put in place. This should make clear milestones which must be met by the individual in order to be promoted to the substantive grade. It is normally expected that the milestones would be met within one year.

Pay awards

Pay awards are negotiated nationally by UCEA on an annual basis and are effective from 1 August each year. Oxford is accredited as a living wage and as an Oxford living wage employer. The bottom points of the pay scale are therefore reviewed annually in line with increases in the living wage and the Oxford living wage, each November. Any pay increases will come into effect in the University from 1 April each year.

In line with other HEIs we face a set of unprecedented financial challenges – some of these are currently swathed with uncertainty – such as the longer term effects of Covid-19 and Brexit and the future funding of higher education – but others, such as very large increases in employers’ pension contributions, are all too certain.

The below summarises the pay awards implemented between 2009/10 and 2019/20 in comparison to inflation (CPIH).

levels of pay award and inflation

Levels of pay award and inflation

Pay progression

Automatic incremental progression takes place on 1 August for support staff (grades 1-5) and on 1 October for academic-related staff (grades 6-10).

Provided that they have been in post for at least three months prior to the incremental date, staff should receive an annual increment within their scale, and thereafter annually until they reach the maximum point of the service scale for the grade of their post, ie an employee appointed to an academic-related post on 1 July would have their first automatic increment on 1 October of the same year, but an employee appointed to an academic-related post on 1 August would have their first automatic increment on 1 October of the following year. 

Outside grants should therefore wherever possible provide for incremental progress each year as well as where appropriate, for reward and recognition, and inflation uplifts.

There is no automatic incremental progression into or within the discretionary range.

Discretionary pay

There is no automatic incremental progression into or within the discretionary range. For university support staff (grades 1-5) and academic-related staff (grades 6-10), discretionary points may be used for the reasons of recruitment, retention, or through the Reward and Recognition scheme.

Applicable allowances may be payable in addition to base pay.


Discretionary points may be deployed with the approval of the head of department in the following circumstances:

  1. when a post is advertised, providing that the head of department is satisfied that there is sufficient evidence, for example from a recent recruitment exercise, to demonstrate that it is unlikely that a suitable candidate would be found unless the availability of the discretionary points is advertised
  2. where it is considered necessary to appoint to the discretionary range in order to appoint a clearly exceptional candidate

When exercising their discretion to determine salaries within the scale, department should take into account the position of existing comparable staff within the department as well as the requirements in respect of gender and ethnicity of the Equality Act 2010. Departments should contact the Reward team for guidance on addressing any pay anomalies that arise as a result of awarding recruitment increments.


Departments, or the appropriate appointing authorities, have discretion on grounds of retention to award up to four additional increments in total above the point which the individual would have attained assuming normal progression after appointment, providing that the People Committee's guidelines and criteria for the award of such increments, set out below, are adhered to.

This applies to all academic-related and university support staff. Only where further advancement, beyond the four additional increments, is contemplated is central reference to the Head of Reward required.

Evidence of an acute case justifying extra discretionary pay on grounds of retention

Before awarding additional increments departments are asked to satisfy themselves:

  1. that the individual concerned has unique experience or possesses very specialised skills and that fulfilment of the department's strategic plan could not be guaranteed without retention of these skills or that experience
  2. that the individual concerned holds a post in a group or type where there have been demonstrable problems of recruitment or retention, which are expected to continue for some time (for example, characterised by a high turnover of staff, poor response to more than one advertisement, or a vacancy of over two months)
  3. that there is a real prospect that an individual who is being considered for a retention payment is actually likely to leave the University. Departments should satisfy themselves that there is clear evidence that, unless a payment is made, an employee is likely to leave. The offer of a job interview elsewhere would provide such evidence but departments are not precluded from considering equally convincing evidence arising from other earlier stages of external selection procedures

It is not intended that these arrangements be used to prevent staff from taking up employment at a higher grade in other university departments.

Further guidance and advice on identifying acute retention cases can be provided by the Reward team on request.


See Reward and recognition scheme guidance.