Former Labour education minister Lord Adonis has urged the government to “cut vice-chancellors’ pay”, accusing the University of Bath vice-chancellor of “greed” over her £450,000 salary.
The peer made his call during a debate on public-sector pay in the House of Lords on 13 July, singling out Bath and its vice-chancellor, Dame Glynis Breakwell, for criticism.
Lord Adonis asked: “Do the government believe that average salaries of £275,000 for England’s vice- chancellors are justified? What do the government intend to do to cut vice-chancellors’ pay?”
He said that Dame Glynis “earns £27,000 from three non-executive directorships…She also has a large house in the historic centre of Bath – a benefit in kind worth £20,000 a year. Put all that together, and Glynis Breakwell is paid almost exactly half a million pounds – more than three times the prime minister’s salary.”
Lord Adonis noted that Bath’s university court had “voted by the narrow margin of 33 votes to 30 not to censure the remuneration committee”, which agreed Dame Glynis’ salary.
“However, that majority of three included the vice-chancellor herself and the very members of the remuneration committee whose conduct was in question,” he added.
Minutes from a Bath court meeting in February show that a motion was put forward expressing concern about the vice-chancellors’ pay.
The motion stated: “That Court makes representation to Council that it is concerned at the lack of transparency and accountability of the Remuneration Committee and the decisions the Remuneration Committee has made in the past year.” However, the motion was defeated.
Lord Adonis added of Bath: “If this is not a case for Hefce [the Higher Education Funding Council for England] and the government to intervene, I do not know what is.”
He continued: “The only example the vice-chancellor of the University of Bath is setting to her staff is one of greed…So I hope the minister will tell us what the government will do to stop it.”
Lord Bates, responding for the government, said: “I think that the House will have been in some shock as [Lord Adonis] quoted the numbers relating to public-sector pay for vice-chancellors and the specific example of the University of Bath.”
But he added: “Universities are independent and autonomous institutions, and are responsible for setting the pay for their staff…The government have no current plans to intervene in universities’ remuneration.”
The Conservative peer was then challenged by Baroness Blackstone, the Labour peer and former vice-chancellor of the University of Greenwich, who suggested that Hefce “ought to intervene” in Bath’s remuneration setting.
Lord Bates added: “I certainly undertake to relay to colleagues the views and concerns raised by [Lord Adonis and Lady Blackstone] and others in the House to see what further can be done, and I will be happy to write to the noble Baroness when I have done that.”
Bath said in a statement: “The salary and conditions of service of our vice-chancellor are independently determined by the remuneration committee of our university council and are comparable with that of long-standing vice-chancellors in other successful universities.
“The increase reported in the 2015-16 accounts reflects her excellent track record and the confidence placed in her leadership of the senior team and the wider university community.”