Nonsensical pay gap between v-cs and staff

August 14, 2014

Michael Shattock characterises the large pay gap between vice-chancellors and lecturers as “out of hand” (“Bad result in student numbers game can still mean a pay rise”, News, 7 August). As a retired University of Hull academic (1975-2011), I found the 16 per cent increase to the Hull vice-chancellor in 2012-13 unacceptable. The bulk of staff were offered 1 per cent. In January, I wrote to members of the remuneration committee seeking to understand how they had applied their terms of reference to meet “the university’s requirements regarding equal pay, internal comparability and external market factors”.

I suggested that they had principally considered external market factors in deciding the award to the vice-chancellor and in effect ignored internal comparability. The teaching, research and support activities of other university staff make essential contributions to Hull’s success. Those who teach the students and/or prepare successful research bids leading to published work, make the largest contribution to the enhancement of the university’s image.

The 57-word response, from the registrar and secretary to my 600-word letter, informed me that the chair of council and members of the committee noted my concerns. I replied, saying that I looked forward to a detailed reply explaining how the criterion of internal comparability had been applied and whether the committee had considered the demoralising effect of a 1 per cent offer imposed on staff by national employers, but implemented by Hull. I have received no further letter. The remuneration committee were clearly incapable of defending their decision publicly.

A friend submitted a Freedom of Information request and the university sent a redacted reply. The names of the remuneration committee members – accessible on Hull’s website – had been removed. From a leaked set of minutes: “The committee reviewed with considerable satisfaction the Vice-Chancellor’s performance and institutional performance for 2012/13 against agreed objectives.” The words “with considerable satisfaction” had been redacted. My friend thanked the Freedom of Information officer for the reply, saying that it had won his “nomination for Opacity of the Year”.

Michael Somerton

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