Curb ‘outrageous’ pay hikes for top brass, says UCU

Analysis suggests v-c pay is rising twice as fast as salaries of more junior university staff

February 23, 2017
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Source: Rex

Pay packages of vice-chancellors are rising twice as fast as the salaries of rank-and-file university staff, says a new analysis of executive pay and perks.

While university staff received a 1 per cent national pay increase in 2015-16, the average cost of paying the salary, benefits and pensions of vice-chancellors rose 2 per cent to £277,834 in the same year, a rise of £5,402 on 2014-15, according to a report published by the University and College Union on 23 February.

The study, titled “Transparency at the top? The third report of senior pay and perks in UK universities”, also reveals how 24 universities increased the overall remuneration paid to their vice-chancellors by 10 per cent or more, while 55 paid their leader more than £300,000 and 11 now have an institutional head on more than £400,000 a year.

According to the report, the highest pay rise for a single university leader was awarded to John Vinney, vice-chancellor of Bournemouth University, whose overall remuneration rose by £50,000 – a 20 per cent increase in 2015-16 – which took his total pay package to £305,000.

A Bournemouth spokesman said Professor Vinney was awarded a pay rise and a “performance-related payment both set by the university’s independent remuneration committee, to reflect his leadership”, adding that his “basic salary remains in line with the average salary when compared across the sector".

As reported last month by Times Higher Education, the sector’s highest-paid leader was Dame Glynis Breakwell, vice-chancellor of the University of Bath, whose £45,000 pay bump took her salary and benefits to £451,000 last year. 

Her remuneration was just ahead of that paid to Sir Andrew Likierman, dean of the London Business School (£445,000), and Janet Hemingway, director of the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (£436,000), the report says.

“Those at the very top in our universities need to rein in the largesse that embarrasses the sector and the government needs to enforce proper scrutiny of their pay and perks,” said Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary.

“Telling staff that there is no money for pay rises while…handing out pay rises in excess of 10 per cent to 24 university heads is quite outrageous,” she added.

However, a Universities and Colleges Employers Association spokesman questioned the UCU comparison, saying the “average increase received by staff on the pay spine in 2015-16 was actually 2.6 per cent – more than double the 1 per cent base increase often quoted.

“It is misleading for UCU to call a figure including pensions costs an ‘average salary’ – we know that Higher Education Statistics Agency data for 2015-16 show that the average head of institution salary was £229,300,” he added.

The report, which obtained data using the Freedom of Information Act, also details how much it cost to fly vice-chancellors around the world, with universities spending an average of £7,762 on flights for their leaders in 2015-16, with two-thirds of flights taken in business or first class.

The expenditure on flights was highest at the University of Warwick, where its vice-chancellor Stuart Croft and his predecessor Sir Nigel Thrift incurred costs of £46,348 for flights in 2015-16. Twenty vice-chancellors flew only business or first class last year, while 50 travelled first class 90 per cent of the time, the report adds.

On hotel accommodation, Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield, was the highest spender, racking up costs of £24,433, although the average spend per university was just £2,989.

About a third of universities (35 per cent) also provided residential accommodation to their vice-chancellors, with an average expenses bill of £1,150.

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