Income multiples

April 22, 2010

There is a much easier solution to the problem of global market pressure on vice-chancellors' salaries than the ones suggested in THE ("World's finest? V-cs, prove you're worth it", 8 April). If vice-chancellors won't do the job for less because they think they can earn more abroad, let them go.

The argument, attributed to a spokeswoman from the University of East London, that "vice-chancellors operate in a global market and their remuneration must reflect this", implies that there are no other equally able administrators ready to take over their jobs should they choose to leave.

But every vice-chancellor in every one of the universities listed in the THE salary table ("It was fun while it lasted", 1 April) only has to look around the table at the next board meeting to see several hungry pro vice-chancellors barely scraping a living on a miserable £90,000-£100,000 a year who would be more than happy to take over tomorrow ... and possibly even without a pay rise.

In the run-up to the general election, and in a period of increasing political pressure on the salary of public-sector employees, it is beholden on every vice-chancellor to at least consider taking a pay cut.

Someone once suggested a rule of thumb that no one in any organisation should be allowed to earn more than a certain multiple of the salary of the worst-paid person in the organisation.

Some suggest a factor of 10, but I favour a factor of five. This would mean that if the lowest-paid person in a company earns £10,000 or £12,000 a year, the highest-paid person could not earn more than £50,000 or £60,000.

Conversely, if a vice-chancellor wants to pay themselves £200,000 a year, the lowest-paid cleaner or porter must earn at least £40,000 a year. This is not just fair: it is equitable.

Ken Smith, Senior lecturer in criminology, Bucks New University.

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