Vice chancellors well rewarded despite sector-wide budget cuts

Pay for university vice chancellors (VC) continued to rise far above the rate of inflation during 2014-15 despite budgets cuts of £150 million across the higher education sector, research by the University and College Union (UCU) has revealed.
In its second report into VC pay, the UCU found average salaries are now more than £250,000, with some enjoying pay rises of 10 per cent or more.
The data comes after Freedom of Information (FOI) requests were sent to 155 universities.
Twenty four refused to answer some, or all, of the questions, which revealed 18 university heads enjoyed a salary increase of more than 10 per cent last year. while average salaries (including benefits in kind and pensions) had reached £260,290.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said students would be amazed at the size of university leaders’ salaries and the “largesse” enjoyed by some in expenses, including average spending on business-class flights worth £8,560 a year and luxury hotel bills totaling £2,990.
The FOI also found that 49 per cent of air fares bought for VCs were for first or business class seats, with average expenses hitting £3,112. The highest expenses bill was the £22,805 lodged by professor Simon Gaskell of Queen Mary University of London, while the VC at Middlesex University racked up the largest single night accommodation bill of £448.40.

In response to the UCU report, sector body Universities UK said that each VC’s pay had been decided by independent remuneration committees at each organisation. A spokesperson added: “The salaries of university leaders in the UK are in line with those in competitor countries and comparable to similarly sized public and private organisations.” 

However, Hunt said: “The time has finally come for a frank and open discussion about pay and transparency in higher education. While some continue to enjoy inflation-busting pay hikes and all the trimmings of first class flights and luxury hotels, staff pay continues to be held down.”
The data comes not long after the Tax Payers’ Alliance published its own research into higher education pay last autumn. It found there were at least 7,554 university employees receiving total remuneration greater than £100,000 in 2013/14.
Among the highest excesses revealed by UCU was the University of Salford's £516,000 paid to two VC incumbents over one year, while the highest single earner was the University of Oxford’s VC, professor Andrew Hamilton, on a deal worth £462,000 a year.
When compiling the data, UCU found only 22 per cent of universities provided unredacted minutes from their most recent remuneration committee meeting – where the pay of the vice-chancellor is decided.

As a result, UCU is now calling for the publication of an annual list of the pay and benefits of vice-chancellors in all institutions who receive public funding.

Hunt said: “This information must be made readily available and no university should be allowed to get away with not responding to an FOI request.” She added: “It is deeply worrying that ministers are considering relaxing FOI rules for universities, when they are the one measure we have to hold them to account. Our report highlights the need for a strengthening of the current FOI legislation.”