Anger over pay spikes for departing vice-chancellors

Union takes aim at ‘out of touch’ leaders after accounts show outgoing Kent head got £45,000 uplift in final year

January 17, 2018
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Concerns have been raised over generous pay rises awarded to retiring vice-chancellors after a senior UK university leader received a £45,000 increase in her final year.

Dame Julia Goodfellow, who retired as vice-chancellor of the University of Kent in July 2017 after 10 years in office, was paid a total remuneration of £324,000 in 2016-17, up by 16.1 per cent from £279,000 in 2015-16, the university’s annual accounts show.

The rise in remuneration came after Dame Julia, the first female president of Universities UK, pocketed a £20,000 pay increase and a £25,000 performance-related bonus that year.

News of the final-year increase is likely to revive criticism of the generous arrangements for outgoing vice-chancellors, which saw Christina Slade earn £808,000 in her final year at Bath Spa University, including a £429,000 payment for “loss of office” last year.

Dame Glynis Breakwell, who is leaving as vice-chancellor of the University of Bath in August 2018, has also faced criticism for taking a semester’s sabbatical at a cost of £230,000 when she steps down.

New guidance on vice-chancellors’ pay was published last week by the Committee of University Chairs, including a warning that final-year salaries “should not be inflated to boost pension benefits”.

Kent spokesman said that Dame Julia was paid a salary of £265,000 in 2016-17, up from £246,750 in the previous year, reflecting a rise “in line with the sector average”. She also received an “additional payment in lieu of [an] employer pension contribution of £37,258”.

The “one-off, non-pensionable bonus of £25,000” was “in recognition of her sustained high performance during her final year as vice-chancellor”, the university added, stating that Dame Julia’s leadership had “assisted the organisation and its staff to respond with optimism and vigour to the challenges the organisation confronted”.

Another long-serving leader – Baroness Brown of Cambridge, who as Julia King was vice-chancellor of Aston University for 10 years until October 2016 – also received a significant pay package prior to her departure.

Lady Brown – who became a dame in 2012 prior to her elevation to the House of Lords in 2015 – was paid a total of £110,863 in her final three months of office, the university’s accounts show. This included a salary of £70,000, a £31,000 bonus and £9,863 in contributions towards an “unregistered, unfunded retirement benefits scheme” in lieu of pension contributions.

It meant that some £398,000 was paid to Aston’s head of institution that year once payments of nearly £287,000 were made to Lady Brown’s successor, Alec Cameron, for his nine months in office.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said that the latest revelations are “further evidence of one rule for the few at the top and another for everyone else”.

“Picking up massive pay hikes or bonuses as they retire tells [a] tale of people massively out of touch with reality on campus and in the wider world,” said Ms Hunt.

An Aston spokesman said that Lady Brown had “received a payment of £31,000 for meeting predetermined targets for exceptional leadership, including the achievement of excellent student retention rates, increased student numbers and stronger than average student satisfaction despite a rapid increase in student numbers”.

“The receipt of this payment was dependent on the meeting of these strategically important targets, and completely unrelated to her decision to retire from post,” he added. “[Lady Brown] was not present at these committees for the discussion of her own remuneration.”

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

"An Aston spokesman said that Lady Brown had “received a payment of £31,000 for meeting predetermined targets for exceptional leadership, including the achievement of excellent student retention rates, increased student numbers and stronger than average student satisfaction despite a rapid increase in student numbers”." I for one whole heartedly support Lady Brown's bonus. She achieved these difficult targets all on her own, with no support from any other staff at the university. That is also why I'm perfectly content to take my minimal, below inflation pay raise with no bonus, yet again - I know my place.

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