English v-cs’ overall remuneration tips towards £300K

Average salary rise of £8,000 awarded to English university leaders highlights ‘lightweight’ nature of new regulator, says University and College Union

February 12, 2019

The salaries of English vice-chancellors rose almost twice as fast on average as the pay of rank-and-file university staff in the past academic year, new figures show.

University leaders in England saw their basic salary rise on average by £8,000 to £253,000 in 2017-18 – a 3.1 per cent increase, according to the Office for Students’ very first analysis of senior staff remuneration, which was published on 12 February.

That compares with the 1.7 per cent basic pay uplift awarded to UK university staff in 2017-18, which rose to 2.4 per cent for the lowest paid that year.

On salary alone, England’s highest-paid vice-chancellor was Dame Glynis Breakwell, who received a basic salary of £470,000, up from £462,000 in the previous year, in her final full year in office at the University of Bath.

As revealed by Times Higher Education in December, the Open University paid the most to its head of institution in 2017-18 after its departing vice-chancellor, Peter Horrocks, pocketed a £255,000 pay-off for loss of office on top of his £321,000 basic salary following a staff revolt against a planned efficiency programme. Once salary and benefits of £89,000 were paid to his successor, Mary Kellett, the OU paid out a total of £718,000 towards the cost of the vice-chancellor’s post, the OfS report says.

Vice-chancellor pay by university

Click on each column to sort or use search box to find an institution

InstitutionBasic salary 2017-18 (£000)% change from 2016-17Total remuneration 2017-18 (£000)% change from 2016-17Ratio of basic salary to institution medianRatio of total remuneration to institution median
Source: Office for Students.

Note: If there was more than one vice-chancellor employed at an institution in either the 2016-17 or 2017-18 academic year this may skew the figures. A "*"  after the name denotes institutions that had changes of leadership over the period.

The University and College Union said that the report exposed the OfS as “lightweight” and a “paper tiger”, which had “failed to look at the excessive rises enjoyed by some vice-chancellors or tackle the expenses and other benefits in kind that have plagued universities in recent years”.

“The report simply regurgitates some of the analysis done by UCU and others in recent years, but pulls its punches on how to address the problem,” said Matt Waddup, head of policy at the UCU.

“The OfS fails to ask why some vice-chancellors are still picking up double-digit pay rises and doesn’t even look at their expenses or other benefits in kind,” he added, stating that the report “sends a message that those who accept such largesse have nothing to fear from the new regulator”.

The report also details how average total remuneration paid to heads of providers, including pension payments and subsidised accommodation, increased by £5,000 to £299,000 in 2017-18.

The report also sets out the pay ratios between the heads of providers and all staff, which ranged from 3 to 13.4. The median was 7.2.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the OfS, said that it was “good to see signs of pay restraint at some universities, with some vice-chancellors refusing a salary increase”.

“A number of governing bodies have reduced the basic pay of their vice-chancellor, though we acknowledge that it can be difficult to revisit contractual obligations while a vice-chancellor is in post,” he added.

Ms Dandridge added that “it is not for the Office for Students to set a vice-chancellor’s pay” and that the regulator “understand[s] that running a university is a significant and complex task, and it is right that those who excel in their roles should be well rewarded”.

“Despite this, where pay is out of kilter, or salary increases at the top outstrip pay awards to other staff, vice-chancellors should be prepared to answer tough questions from their staff, student bodies and the public,” she continued.

The analysis reports that payments for compensation for loss of office across all providers in 2017-18 totalled £151 million. This represents less than 1 per cent of total staff costs.


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