Several UK university leaders received double-digit pay increases last year despite growing unease over rising remuneration at many institutions, new figures show.
After Times Higher Education revealed last week that the salaries of Russell Group vice-chancellors rose by 5.9 per cent on average in 2015-16, it has now emerged that some pay rises for university heads outside the 24-strong group were even greater.
According to newly released financial statements, the University of Bath awarded a £45,000 pay rise to its vice-chancellor, Dame Glynis Breakwell, in 2015-16. The 11 per cent uplift took her salary, including benefits, to £451,000 – which is likely to make her the highest-paid vice-chancellor in the UK. THE’s review of Russell Group pay showed that Alice Gast, Imperial College London’s president, was the highest individual earner in the elite group last year, on £430,000.
Her overall remuneration for work in the sector is thought to be even closer to £500,000, given that she received £10,000 last year as a non-executive director of the Student Loans Company and £34,000 as director of the Universities Superannuation Scheme’s trustee board.
Dame Glynis’ pay rise “reflects her excellent track record and the confidence placed in her leadership of the senior team and the wider university community”, said a Bath spokesman, who added that her remuneration was “comparable with that of long-standing vice-chancellors in other successful universities”.
But even taking into consideration the university’s recent success, Michael Carley, the president of Bath’s University and College Union branch, said that questions needed to be asked about how Dame Glynis’ pay was determined.
“It is difficult to understand why other universities that are much larger and have enjoyed similar success have not rewarded their vice-chancellors so amply,” Dr Carley said.
“The University of Manchester, for example, is four times larger than Bath, yet its vice-chancellor manages to get by on just over half of Professor Breakwell’s salary,” he added.
While he accepted that Dame Glynis should be rewarded for her contribution towards growing student numbers, Dr Carley claimed that Bath “has seen a collapse in confidence in the governance structures, which are clearly not working” and said that more transparency was needed over the vice-chancellor’s “enormous pay”.
Last month, Bath’s students’ union passed a motion stating that it was “outrageous that the vice-chancellor is paid almost half a million pounds a year” while living “virtually cost-free” in a grace-and-favour apartment in the city centre – something that attracted considerable media attention last year. The motion added that her “excessive pay and expenses…had become a source of embarrassment” to the university.
Other non-Russell Group universities to grant large executive pay rises in 2015-16 included the University of Lancaster, which last year awarded a £36,000 increase to its vice-chancellor, Mark E. Smith.
That took to £266,000 the pay and benefits of Professor Smith – the new chair of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association, which awarded a 1.1 per cent national pay rise for rank-and-file staff for this academic year. When pension contributions are included, his remuneration totals £311,000, 16 per cent higher than in 2014-15.
In a statement, Lancaster said that Professor Smith’s increase had taken his “pay from the lower quartile of comparable universities to around the median”, with his remuneration climbing by 3.5 per cent annually on average over his four years as vice-chancellor.
Coventry University also presented a substantial increase to its vice-chancellor in 2015-16: John Latham saw his salary rise by £25,742 (9.6 per cent) to £293,014 last year. That total stood at £331,314 if pension contributions are included.
A Coventry spokesman said that Professor Latham’s salary was “comparable with that of other heads of universities throughout the UK”, and reflected the university’s “continued strong performance – particularly in terms of student experience…in a competitive sector”.