Departing Bath Spa v-c paid £808K in final year

University defends £429,000 pay-off to Christina Slade as criticism of ‘excessive’ executive pay intensifies

December 6, 2017
Christina Slade
Source: Ben Langdon Photography

One of the UK’s smallest universities paid its vice-chancellor £808,000 in her final year in the job, including a £429,000 pay-off on her departure, Times Higher Education can reveal.

Christina Slade, who was vice-chancellor of Bath Spa University until August 2017, was paid a salary of £250,000 in 2016-17, but received an additional £429,000 as “compensation for loss of office”, the university’s latest financial statements show.

Professor Slade, who had led Bath Spa since September 2012, also received a housing allowance of £20,000, other benefits-in-kind worth £20,000 and pension contributions of £89,000 last year, which took her overall remuneration package to £808,000.

It means that the 64-year-old Australian academic was almost certainly the UK’s highest paid vice-chancellor in 2016-17 – with her overall pay package almost 75 per cent higher than the £468,000 in pay and benefits awarded to Dame Glynis Breakwell, the University of Bath’s vice-chancellor, that year. Most universities have yet to publish their annual financial statements that contain details of executive pay.

News of Professor Slade’s pay-off – believed to be a record for a UK university – is likely to intensify calls for further scrutiny of university vice-chancellors’ pay. An independent inquiry into “excessive vice-chancellor pay” should be set up and report back to the Prime Minister by the end of January, said the Labour peer Lord Adonis in a tweet on 5 December.

Last week it emerged that Sir Christopher Snowden, vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton, became one of the UK’s most highly paid higher education leaders in 2016-17, on a remuneration package totalling £433,000. This is in comparison with the £352,000 that he was paid the previous year for the 10 months that he was employed, and comes after the institution announced plans to axe 75 academic jobs.

A Bath Spa spokeswoman said that Professor Slade, a professor of media theory, had “stood down” as vice-chancellor last summer after “more than five years of distinguished service” and, after taking legal advice, the university paid her “a sum which reflected her contractual and statutory entitlements and was considered to represent value for money”.

The university, which had 7,300 students in 2016-17, added that “relevant Higher Education Funding Council for England guidance was taken into account and legal advice, based on this guidance, obtained” before the sum was paid. In June, Hefce warned that enhanced severance packages “should not as a rule be provided out of public funds” and must not reward poor performance.

The Bath Spa spokeswoman added that its remuneration committee, which does not include the vice-chancellor, was “mindful of the need to respond to concerns about excessive salaries”.

However, the committee also took into account the “performance of the university in meeting key performance indicators, the individual contribution of senior staff to achieving the university’s strategic objectives, the need for the university to be competitive in the higher education market, affordability and reputation”.

The university also stressed that, under Professor Slade’s five-year tenure, it had “become one of the UK’s leading creative universities".

However, the university’s latest financial statements record a number of “challenges”, despite its “strong financial performance” and “record intake” of 2,300 UK and other European Union students in 2016-17. In September 2017, its international student numbers dropped by 30 per cent and overall domestic and EU intake dipped to 2,100, while two subsidiary companies – Bath Spa U and Bath Spa Global – racked up significant losses, the accounts note.

Figures available on Companies House show that Bath Spa Global – an international pathway college venture set up in 2014 in partnership with US firm Shorelight Education – has lost about £1.4 million in the three years to July 2016, while its parent company Bath Spa U has lost about £736,000 over the same period. Professor Slade was a director of Bath Spa U until August 2017. The university’s chief operating officer, Neil Latham, a former British Navy rear admiral, is also listed as a director of Bath Spa U, whose losses caused the university to write off £450,000 last year, the accounts show.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “We are seeing what happens when decisions are taken in secret without proper checks and balances.

“This cannot be allowed to continue; we need an urgent overhaul of how senior pay and perks are determined, and how our universities are governed.

“Hefce has already been asked to investigate the golden goodbye on offer down the road at the University of Bath and I presume they will look at this one as well. We need students and staff to have a role on the committees taking these decisions and we need to see the full minutes so we can be clear about how pay awards are decided.”

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Reader's comments (4)

This pay package and pay-off is an absolute scandal. Bath Spa is in no way an internationally competitive university with a mere 7000 students and can hardly be rated as a research intensive university. Something stinks.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the VC pay ‘scandals’, what is needed is an independent review of the processes, conducted by people with absolutely no conflict of interest. That is not as easy as it sounds. Excluded from the list of potential members of such a review is anyone currently or recently employed by, or member of a governing board of, any higher education institution or regulatory agency or currently a student. Reviewers however need to have a good understanding of the regulatory framework which, in pursuance of university autonomy, gives carte blanche to governing bodies to establish pay and conditions of senior staff. I think there must be a good few of us around who could help out if asked, with no pre-conceptions. Dennis Farrington Co-author, The Law of Higher Education
The mis-management at Bath Spa needs urgent investigation. Why was she given such a large pay-off??? Did she have a new contract that they suddently decided she should not complete - if so for what reason ???? Also what expenses has she run up over her years at Bath Spa???? How can someone at a pretty low ranking university with only 7000 students and next to no ranking in research be getting such a high salary??? Bath Spa Governors need to be held to account for this mess and if she has got a pay-off because they think she is no good at her job then the scandal just gets bigger.
As someone with year's of experience in the professional design sector, I was, and continue to be appalled at the standard of education and quality of the work turned out by students at Bath Spa. It is outrageous that young design students are led to believe that the near £30k they spend at the College will equip them for a career. Firstly the career numbers just aren't out there in the real world and secondly less than 10% are anywhere near good enough to be employable.


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