Female academics at St Andrews are not taking enough time off for maternity leave compared to women working at other universities and in other professions, according to research published by The Guardian.

The number of professors and lecturers who went on maternity leave at St Andrews dropped from 14 to six in the period 2010 to 2013. The average number across the top ten Universities in the UK (as ranked by The Guardian) is 12. In addition, women at St Andrews are taking very short maternity leaves of only 138 days –the average length is over 270 for most women, and at least 190 for academics at top universities.

St Andrews was revealed as having the fewest academics to take maternity leave, compared to other universities such as Oxford, where the number of professors taking maternity leave has actually increased.

The statistics were published after figures produced by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) revealed that more than three times as many men held professorships than women and there are more than twice as many male department heads. The figures also showed that there are still only 35 female vice-chancellors (out of 170) – including Principal Louise Richardson.

The ECU report also showed the pay discrepancy between men and women in academia. Whereas the majority of women earn less than £42,000, most men earn more than that according to the report. Nearly three-quarters of jobs paying more than £57,000 were held by men. The ECU added that there is a 13.6 per cent median pay gap between male and female academics.

In response to these statistics, a spokesman for the University said: “These figures are very small and cannot be taken as evidence of a trend; as fluctuations are inevitable in such a small sample.

“The issue has not gone unnoticed, however, and St Andrews is employing extra measures to ensure the situation concerning female academics is improved. “We are not complacent,” said the spokesperson, “and have introduced a single equality outcomes scheme, put in place an equal pay statement, introduced flexible working, and created a female academic networking scheme.”

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