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Archive for the ‘Compensation’ Category

Admittedly, this post is feeding off second hand information from the rumour mill — of which I get bits and pieces from individuals who I’m never going to name.  The reason I’m writing it at all is because of three recent bits of information happened to converge:

  1. One of the search strings on today’s blog stats was “XYZ University dishonest.”
  2. A faculty member at XYZ University suddenly departed prior to the start of the Fall 2010 term.
  3. Another blog stated the following with respect to XYZ University (this particular piece of text is no longer to be found on the web, but it was there this morning):

If you were thinking to go there and teach, don’t bother: they treat academics with smirky suspicion, and they do not follow up with promises to pay for courses you teach.

Draw your own conclusions.

One might think that this bad press on XYZ University is without basis. Perhaps.  But in a land where the rules change and contracts are re-interpreted at management’s whim, these three little bits would make me think twice before accepting that job offer at KUSTAR XYZ University.

Note to Suede Oasis:  Yes, I realise this is yet another post on compensation (or perhaps lack thereof!), but when the issue on the table is whether or not faculty are being remunerated for the work that they do, I question the value of reporting on academic substance at all.

References:

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I don’t really have anything new to report this week, as NYU Abu Dhabi hasn’t sent out another press release yet — unless you count the recent tidbit on the ‘leaning tower of Abu Dhabi’ posted on the Salaam blog.  As someone who has to drive past this architectural abomination on a pretty regular basis, it’s the last thing I want to read about, but if NYU and the rest of the UAE want to go on comparing it to the campanile at Pisa, they can go right ahead.  See for yourself:

Architectural Abomination

Architectural Beauty

Back to today’s post…

I had a quick look at the search terms that have pointed folks towards this blog over the past few months, and thought I would post them for all to see:

kustar salary 8
uaeu and chronicle 8
“chronicle of higher education” 6
hct sucks 5
nyu abu dhabi 4
hume, uae, chronicle 4
academics in the desert 4
uaeu “hume” 4
khalifa university salaries 3
kustar 3
http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/ 3
chronicle uaeu hume 3
salary zayed 17000 3
al hosn university chronicle 3
msu dubai 3
kustar allowance 3
abu dhabi nyu 2
“khalifa university” “per child” 2
“khalifa university” “allowance” 2
job cuts uae university 2
the national american university of rak 2
hct salaries 2
khalifa university salary 2
hume uaeu 2
daves esl cafe zayed university 2
eslcafe + khalifa university + 40000 aed 2
dave’s esl cafe alhosn university 2
“money proves elusive” hume 2
dave’s esl cafe hct 2010 2
tod laursen salary khalifa university 2
academics in teh desert 2
housing zayed university 2
laursen khalifa 2
salary package and uaeu 2010 2
msu dubai cancels class 2
nyuad 2
teaching vacancies iat uae 1
uaeu firing faculty 1
iat hct salary compare 1
the hidden gender gap in education in th 1
khda report 2010 of apple international 1
pay freeze uae universities 1
chronicle.com/article/money-proves-elusi 1
american university of sharjah faculty s 1
dave esl cafe forum khalifa university u 1
salary “khalifa university” 1
“abu dhabi university” ” per child” 1
aed job salary professor “zayed universi 1
kustar daves esl 1
uaeu hume chroncile of higher education 1

This isn’t really that interesting, but I thought I’d run a few numbers and see what is leading readers here — partly out of desperation for something to write about, and partly because this sort of information helps me decide what to write about more.  And the winner is…

Anything related to compensation.  35% of the time, search strings related to compensation (salaries and/or allowances).

The runner up appears to be a near tie between anything related to KUSTAR (32% of searches) and anything related to UAEU (30% of searches).  Note:  these include compensation-related queries, so don’t expect the numbers to add to 100%.

Third place is shared by Zayed University and NYUAD (each included in 8% of searches).

So what does this tell me?

In some ways, not that much — this blog is way below the radar with respect to established universities and places that have been all over the news, so I won’t show up on a search for anything related to NYU Abu Dhabi until several Google pages down from the top. Run a search on less written-up institutions, like the relatively new Khalifa University, and I’m more likely to be in the forefront.

But one interesting find is that many people appear to be searching for salary information.  What does this tell us?  One, the higher education (and non-TESL-related) market here is young enough that information on compensation is scarce.  Two, job candidates are really concerned about money — and not very concerned, it would seem, about, things like student attitudes/performance, grading pressure, or general academic culture.

While I don’t want this to morph into a blog specifically about compensation, I am interested in catering to the market, so if you’d like to (anonymously) contribute any information on your salary and benefit packages, I’m very happy to post it.

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Last month I came across a piece in the San Francisco Chronicle (actually a reprint from the blog Crosscurrents from KALW):

Exporting public school teachers to Abu Dhabi?

The story doesn’t exactly fit in with the higher education theme of this blog, but it serves to remind me of a couple of financial matters:  the comparison of tertiary to non-tertiary salary packages and the oft-mentioned ‘tax free’ lure.  I’ll take them one at a time.

1.  Salary packages

Baba’s (9 June 2010) write-up includes a breakdown of the salary and benefits offered by TeachAway (the preeminent global teacher placement organisation for elementary through high school).  Here’s what TeachAway is offering certified teachers with bachelor degrees:

Monthly Salary
12,300-20,400AED, depending on experience and credentials
(approx. $4000-$6300CAD or $3350-$5500US)

Airfare
Yearly air ticket provided for teacher, spouse and 3 dependents

Working Hours
35-40 hours/week, 5 days a week

Accommodation
Provided, inclusive of furniture allowance

Vacation
Usually from end-June until mid-August;
plus all National holidays

Health Insurance
Covered by employer

Not bad, eh?  Unfortunately, the picture starts looking bad when we compare these numbers to the offers given by many universities to holders of doctorates.  A couple of months ago, I posted some information on the compensation package given to an assistant professor at KUSTAR:

basic:  14K/month
other allowances:  20/month
kids education: up to 54 k/ year
annual tickets
(No housing proved [sic] by the univ. of course)

Housing situation aside, note that the basic monthly salary for an assistant professor is at the LOW end of the basic monthly salary for, say, a third-grade math teacher.  I don’t know about you, but I think there’s something just a little bit wrong with that picture.

2.  The tax-free lure

Baba’s blog post includes the misleading line “And (drum roll) the salary is TAX-FREE.”

This is both not true and true.  Considering that the audience of the article seems to be laid-off teachers in the state of California, we can assume that mostly US citizens will be reading these words.  If you’re one of them, let me explain a little further:

The United States taxation system is, rather anomalously, based on citizenship (or resident alien status), not residence.  That means that no matter where you are in the world, and no matter where you earn your money, if you have a US passport or a green card, you owe Uncle Sam.  The fact that the UAE levies no income tax on its residents has absolutely no bearing on this fact.  This is the reason that Baba’s tax-free statement is not true.

On the other hand, taxpayers who are not residing in the US are eligible for an earned income exclusion ($91,400 in 2009) and exclusions or deductions on foreign housing amounts (IRS, n.d.).  Further, employees working abroad for non-US companies are not obligated to pay social security taxes.  Since the average teacher’s income (including housing and other benefits) is not likely to exceed that $91,400 by much, effectively no (or little) taxes will be owed.  So in this sense, Baba’s statement is true, but the canny job seeker should not assume that his salary is completely tax free without consulting an expert who is savvy in expat taxation issues.

Aside from making me angry, these two issues (the salary comparison and the misleading tax statement) have something in common:  they both serve to remind any job seeker to do his homework before signing on the dotted line.  Find out what the going rate is for education professionals in Abu Dhabi.  Consult a tax professional.  Talk to your prospective employer.

Unless, of course, you groove on the idea of making less money than someone with academic credentials that don’t hold a candle to yours, or on the idea of a nasty tax surprise a year or so down the road.

References:

Baba, H. (9 June 2010). Exporting public school teachers to Abu Dhabi? Crosscurrents from KALW. Retrieved (6 July 2010) from http://kalwnews.org/blogs/hanababa/2010/06/09/exporting-public-school-teachers-abu-dhabi_407203.html

Internal Revenue Service. (n.d.). Foreign earned income exclusion. Retrieved (6 July 2010) from http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/international/article/0,,id=97130,00.html

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in your contract, that is.

Here you are, ready to sign on the dotted line (yes, I read the search strings used to find this site and I know that many of you are, as I’ve done, looking for informative scraps of information that will help you make the final decision about the offer that may bring you out to the desert for the Fall 2010 term).  And here I am, your friendly neighbourhood whistleblower (or tell-it-like-it-really-is person), ready to help out.

(You may be thinking that I’m on some sort of vindictive rant and that anything I say here may be happily discounted.  That’s not true.  But I AM telling the truth — a truth you likely won’t be hearing from that smiling face in the HR department. What you do with this truth as you contemplate moving thousands of miles from home to a job that may ultimately result in the early demise of your academic career is up to you.  But I ain’t tellin’ no lies.  And I defy anyone who works here in the desert to find fault with the facts.)

Last month I sent up a few salary package comparisons based on information I’ve collected from various forums and articles (Money money money, 13 May 2010). It’s now time to talk about the bits and pieces of those salary packages in more detail:

  • The base salary
    This is, well, rather what it sounds like — your salary not including any other benefits or allowances.  It’s relevant for a couple of reasons.  First of all, this is the basis on which your end-of-service benefit will be calculated, the rule being one month’s base salary for every full year worked.  Second, it’s the number you should be comparing to your current salary.  While you might be tempted to look at the whole package, thinking ‘Holy numbers, Batman — an academic salary of 400,000 Dhs!’ —  don’t do that.  Look at the base and assess it by itself.
  • Annual leave
    This is very likely going to be stated in terms of calendar days, not working days.  That means that while you are on annual leave, any weekends or government holidays that fall within that period are counted as leave.  (I know, you’re probably wondering how that works when normal weekends aren’t counted as leave, but I have no good answer to give you.)  Just keep in mind that ’45 calendar days’ does NOT translate to nine weeks of leave, but rather six weeks.
    Now for the fun part.  You might be thinking that you will have a choice as to when to take those six weeks of leave.  Well, surprise, surprise, that may not necessarily be the case.  Some institutions will force you to take leave during the time between semesters (whether or not you have course prep to do).  Some will stipulate that annual leave must be taken during certain periods of the summer when the university is not in session — whether you happen to be teaching summer courses or not.  Some will change their policies overnight, without consulting you, and leaving you with no recourse.
  • Tickets ‘home’
    They say home is where the heart is, but over here, home depends on the colour of your passport.  You may have grown up and gone through years of graduate school in sunny California, gotten yourself a prized green card, and paid your taxes like a good boy, but if you’ve got a Syrian passport, guess where you’ll be going on your leave?  That’s right.  It’s not that you can’t go back to LA, it’s just that you won’t be supplied with a ticket for that destination.  Don’t have any family in Syria?  Oh well, that’s too bad. But wait, there’s MORE:
    Remember those business class tickets for you and your family members? Well, I’m sorry to say it, but you may not be flying up front after all.  Some institutions don’t actually supply the tickets, but rather cash-in-lieu — and I guarantee you that the cap on the cash amount, in some cases, will not come close to the actual cost of the tickets (especially since you’ll be taking your annual leave during high season).  Check on this with the smiling gal from HR.  Then check again.  Actually, there’s no real reason to bother, because the policy might change.
  • Your children’s education
    If you’re seriously contemplating a move over here with spouse and kids, you’ve (I hope) been doing a little homework on the cost and availability of schooling.  And if you have, you know it’s expensive — particularly for those coveted positions in western-curriculum schools.  If you haven’t, know this:  the annual cost per child can easily reach 40,000 Dhs (and beyond).  That’s probably about two and a half times the base monthly salary you’ve been offered.   Fortunately, universities provide an education allowance for the young’uns.  Unfortunately, there may be a few suprises down the line.
    First of all, you need to find out when your employer-to-be is going to start providing that educational allowance.  Three years old?  Four?  Five?  The difference could mean watching a few months’ worth of your hard earned dirhams disappear.  Second, whatever the starting age is, get it in writing. Then get it in writing again.  Ask what will happen if the policy changes after you’ve signed in blood on that dotted line.  And if you’re thinking that this sort of bait-and-switch will NEVER, ever happen to you, think again.
  • Allowances
    Ah, those lovely allowances.  The ones that make the offer for Assistant Professor of X look like a dream come true.  First off, the relocation allowance.  You should be getting one, so don’t take no for an answer. And it should be enough to cover bringing over what you need, as well as bringing back all of your belongings once you’ve woken up from the dream.  Second, do make sure that the same amount of freight is provided for on both ends — an allowance to bring 2,000 lbs of freight over here isn’t worth very much if the allowance to ship it back only covers half of it.
  • Housing
    The word on the street is that universities provide housing.  Not a housing ‘allowance’, but the actual place to live, dwelling, edifice, apartment, whateveryouwannacallit. Well, it appears that all of them do, save one — KUSTAR.  That institution will provide you with an extra cash allowance on top of your basic salary every month to cover housing, but YOU need to go out and find it (don’t worry, perhaps Smiling HR Gal will give you a list of estate agents as found on page whatever of this year’s Explorer Guide). And then you need to pay for it.  In two checks per year — at the most (rent here is paid on a yearly basis, up front — if you still don’t get it, think of it this way:  you’ll be shelling out upwards of $25,000 before you can move in and writing a six-month post-dated check for the same amount). For anyone just out of graduate school, that rent-up-front policy here in Abu Dhabi probably isn’t going to work very well, so be prepared to ask for a loan from any employer who offers cash instead of the real deal (or from the bank when that employer tells you to get bent), and then be prepared to put on the golden handcuffs:  if you’ve got a loan for housing that had to be paid up front, it’s going to make it extremely difficult to leave.  And by ‘extremely difficult’ I mean something along the lines of a midnight drive to the airport and no chances of ever returning.

This all may seem pretty frightening to some of you.  To others, it may seem wildly exaggerated.  Here’s what I know:  there are good folks over here who, had they known the fine print prior to signing, very likely would have thought twice about it.

If you’re brave enough to push forward, welcome, again, to

Academics in the Desert

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Congratulations!

Ok, the first thing you’ve done is Google something like “salary assistant professor university of X.”  Trust me.  I know.  Not that I’m psychic, but I’ve got a few layers of traffic-tracking going on over here at Academics in the Desert, and the search strings don’t lie.  Unfortunately, other than this site, the ESL-folks over at Dave’s ESL Café, and the pathetically underused ‘Academics in the Mideast’ forum at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, you probably haven’t found much.

You don’t know whether what you’ve been offered is reasonable.  You don’t know how it compares to what the other candidates have been offered.  You don’t know what working conditions are like.  In rare cases you don’t even know where you’re going to live.  And for some reason, no one out there is talking.

I’m afraid I can’t help much beyond what I’ve posted recently in Money Money Money, but I can advise the following:

  • read your contract carefully
  • search high and low for any information you can find
  • demand to be put in touch with your colleagues-to-be
  • do your homework with respect to housing, child education, and other expenses
  • ask questions about the student-faculty ratio, library facilities, and research support and when you’re done, ask more questions about course loads, contact hours, working hours, annual leave restrictions, and whatever else you can think of
  • find out the minimum TOEFL and IELTS requirements for admission
  • head over to Zayed University’s site and have a read-through of the UAE Labour Law
  • while you’re there, look at ZU’s Moving to the UAE site for information on visas, attestation of diplomas and marriage/birth certificates, utilities, licenses, and so forth

Remember, this is not the US or the UK.  This is the desert.  Know what you’re getting into before you make the leap.

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The comments have been rolling on The National’s May 12 story about UAE universities cutting back on salaries and allowances.  Have a look at them here.

What I find particularly interesting in some of the commentary is the reference to regular school allowances of 80,000 Dhs and ‘additional fee’ allowances of 20,000 Dhs.  That comes to an annual benefit of about USD 28,000 that is only available to employees with children.

While the exorbitant school fees here in Abu Dhabi (sometimes nearly 50,000 Dhs per child) and other family-related expenses put expats with dependents in an understandably difficult situation, I have to question the fairness of compensation schemes:  Should employees with dependents automatically earn more than single employees, or should they be expected to pay for some of their family expenses out-of-pocket?  Is it fair to supply an employee with a non-working spouse and children triple the number of annual business-class tickets home while limiting the airfare allowance to one ticket in cases where a spouse works and there are no children?  I myself have never heard of a job, in any sector, that pays a higher salary to employees on the basis of marital or parental status.

Comments welcome.

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Money money money

Today’s post is brought to you by the Sign of the Dollar.  Or the Dirham.  Or whatever native currency you feel comfortable with.

If you spend a little time looking around the net, you’ll find a few forums where expat hires ask for something like a reality check on a salary package (indeed, one post I dug up was titled something like *Need a reality check on a salary offer*).  And why not?  It’s easy enough to figure out what the cost of living is halfway around the world, but if you’re like me you probably want to know where your offer falls in the pecking order.  So here we go.  (I’ve updated these with new information found through 5 June, and will continue to do so as I find references to salary packages on the forums.)

Just yesterday, a new member of Dave’s ESL Cafe asked for comments on his/her 10,000 AED/month salary at the International School of Creative Sciences (I myself have not yet heard of that one).  The poster has a PGCE (Brit-speak for post-graduate certificate in education).  Click here for the comments.

Got that?  ’10K is low.’  ‘Don’t settle for less than 15K plus the usual benefits.’  ’10K is taking the piss.’

Ok, so the ISCS maybe needs to get a little more creative with its salary packages.

Let’s get back to the ‘plus the usual benefits’ phrase for just a minute.  Here in the UAE, that translates as ‘plus FREE housing, round-trip tickets to the home country for the employee and family, health insurance for the whole family, schooling allowances for children (usually capped at a certain amount), and perhaps a relocation allowance.’  This is, in fact, a fairly standard package.  And that 15K plus the usual benefits is what the crowd over at Dave’s is claiming to be the norm…a crowd with master’s degrees.

Here are a few corroborating quotes (all figures are in UAE dirhams):

For KUSTAR (Sharjah campus EFL lecturers):

Basic package is 15,000 + housing which for a family is about 9,000 per month, education allowance of 80K (40K max per child) and tickets home.  (another poster mentions that this is the same package offered at the high school level at IAT).

For HCT (Dubai non-teaching jobs):

18,715 AED per month plus standard accomodation, insurance, flights home, vacation, 30,000 AED relocation, etc.

For HCT (various locations, ESL instructors):

11,000 AED per month and SHARED accomodation. [my emphasis]

For IAT (Abu Dhabi, ESL instructors [I assume]):

12,000 to 15,000 basic with 11,800 housing…just shy of 25,000 a month.

For Zayed University (Asst. Professor, and take note that Zayed provides housing and the usual other benefits):

…a monthly salary of 17000…

For HCT (various locations, ESL instructors [I assume]):

Have hear [sic] of three folks starting at over 18,000 AED a month with zero experience at the tertiary level…

For KUSTAR (Abu Dhabi, Asst. Prof, Physics):

basic:  14K/month
other allowances:  20/month
kids education: up to 54 k/ year
annual tickets
(No housing proved [sic] by the univ. of course)

For KUSTAR (Sharjah, Asst. Prof, Engineering):

15.5k basic salary
10.5k allowance
plus medical and flights benefits

For The Petroleum Institute (ESL teachers with MAs – note the date):

In 2002, PI salaries for EFL people were pretty much Dh 15,000 across the board, with a furniture allowance of Dh. 44,000.

For Zayed University (ESL teachers with MAs):

I’d say that you should be looking at 13-17,000 Dhs (US$3500-4500) depending on whether your experience is pre or post MA and how closely your experience matches their program. The package will also include housing, a nice furniture allowance, flights, gratuity, medical… the usual. Housing is normally a two-bedroom flat is a new or nearly new building. You will have to search long and hard here to find any teachers complaining here about the conditions.

And Bardsley (2009) reports the following in The National’s story about encouraging Emiratis to become academics:

Typically an assistant professor at a government university earns about Dh25,000 (US$6,800) a month, while a full professor may earn more than double this.

Interesting reading, don’t you think?

References:

Various authors.  Various dates.  Dave’s ESL Café (United Arab Emirates forum).  Retrieved (13 May 2010) from http://forums.eslcafe.com/job/viewforum.php?f=30.

Bardsley, D. 22 Dec 2009. Emiratis encouraged to become Academics.  The National. Retrieved (12 May 2009) from http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091223/NATIONAL/712229874/1010/rss</p&gt;

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