Your salary can make you sick

April 10, 2014

It seems clear that vice-chancellors in the UK are catching a bad case of what the Americans call “CEO disease” (“The big business of remuneration”, 3 April). A search on Google for “CEO disease” reveals many of the symptoms:

  1. Losing touch with the realities of the people you are managing
  2. Caring about protocol – who you meet, which group you belong to
  3. Building pyramids – Mussolini-style offices and expense accounts and luxury accommodation
  4. Ego-tripping – travelling abroad, hounding publicity, hiring speech writers.

In the US it is alleged that CEO disease has sapped competitive potential by distracting CEOs from their proper roles. But it is not too late for a cure here. If a v-c wants to be seen as a real leader instead of someone just doing a job out of greed, then they can work to inspire their staff to reach their potentials and pursue joint objectives in a spirit of mutual effort. And maybe (as one or two have done) to refuse their inflated salaries.

Ormond Simpson
Visiting fellow, Centre for Distance Education
University of London International Programmes


I was glad to read your feature on vice-chancellors’ remuneration in last week’s edition, particularly the focus on who sits on remuneration committees. At my own university, Goldsmiths, the committee is chaired by a baroness and includes a banker and company executive among its members – but no student. It does not release minutes or statements, either.

Universities wax lyrical about how important the student voice is to them, especially as students are paying more than ever for their education, yet when it comes to deciding where a big chunk of their fees are being spent, there is an unwillingness to upset the comfortable status quo. It’s about time that changed, and student unions across the country should begin pushing for this to happen.

Howard Littler
Campaigns officer
Goldsmiths Students’ Union


Given the analysis in last week’s edition (“The big business of remuneration”, 3 April), shouldn’t the staggering suggestion that some staff could be employed on nine-month contracts (“UUK review to look at nine-month contracts”, 3 April) more accurately be attributed to “Sir Ian Diamond (salary package: £306,000)”? Perhaps this practice could be used for Times Higher Education’s reporting of all future public statements by v-cs and senior managers that relate to the pay and conditions of (other) university staff. After all, aren’t we all in this together?

Perhaps more chillingly, he of the £306,000 salary package justifies the tuition fee surplus on the need to invest in infrastructure. Isn’t that what the energy and railway companies always argue, alongside other privatised former public sector organisations? Might this be a clue to the very near future of our, for now, public universities?

Dave Filipovic-Carter
Director, Education-Training Ltd
Associate lecturer, Open University


University remuneration committees could save themselves a great deal of time and trouble when setting vice-chancellors’ pay. All they need do is apply the formula P=fn, where P is the v-c’s total pay and benefits, f is the university’s standard tuition fee, and n is the maximum number of students to whom the v-c would be happy to explain, in person, that their fees have been entirely devoted to his or her remuneration package.

Andrew Connell


I’ve always wondered how v-cs think they can maintain the argument that they are competing for talent in a global market. V-cs are overwhelmingly drawn from a pool of white, British-born men. There are a few women, and v-cs who hail from Australia or Canada. Meanwhile, the rank and file academics in my own school represent a truly global talent pool: Turkey, Germany, Brazil, Spain, China, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Ireland, South Korea, as well as the UK. We would not claim any exceptionalism, however. We would just like to be rewarded as professionals.

Liz Morrish

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