A student will now sit on the Goldsmiths, University of London, remuneration committee that decides the pay level of the warden, currently Patrick Loughrey, and other senior staff.
The salary setting bodies are often criticised as being secretive, with a report by the University and College Union in April saying that only two universities were willing to disclose minutes from the meetings.
The union said Goldsmiths was the first institution to allow a student on to such a committee. The student representative will be a full and voting member of the committee, which also decides management pay increases and severance packages.
Goldsmiths Students’ Union - which has been lobbying the college on the issue for several months - hailed the decision as a “landmark victory for the students’ union movement”.
The GSU president, Howard Littler - whose proposal to have a student on the committee was approved by Goldsmiths’ governing council on June - said: “In the past senior management pay has been viewed as an issue off-limits to student representatives. I’m glad Goldsmiths have accepted this argument as false and I hope other institutions follow.”
The annual Times Higher Education pay survey in April revealed that between 2011-12 and 2012-13 vice-chancellors’ earnings rose by an average of 5.5 per cent, bringing the average salary, with pension payments, to £254,692.
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “Millions of pounds of public money are spent on vice-chancellors’ salaries, yet their pay rises are decided in clandestine committees that staff and students are barred from attending.
“Goldsmiths should be applauded for its move towards greater transparency. We hope there will also be a staff representative invited to probe the boss’s pay rise and that other universities will follow suit.”
Megan Dunn, vice-president (higher education) of the National Union of Students, welcomed the Goldsmiths move but said more needed to be done.
“There are hundreds of millions of pounds of public money quite rightly going into universities over the next few years, and it’s important that we make sure that this money is used on educational experience and impact, not on increasing already substantial senior salaries,” she said.
“A student perspective should look further than simply scrutinising the pay of senior staff. We must also address the pay ratio between highest and lowest earners as well as greater transparency in the setting and reporting of senior level pay.”