Times Higher Education's annual survey of vice-chancellors' pay typically provokes a mixture of condemnation, jealousy and admiration over the bumper packages on offer.
In 2006-07, British vice-chancellors took home £177,000 a year on average. The highest earner, Sir Richard Sykes, then head of Imperial College London, was paid £348,000.
But these sums pale into insignificance compared with the top earners at US institutions, who have been identified in a study by The Chronicle of Higher Education.
The number-one earner in US higher education received an eye-watering $4.4 million (£3.05 million) in 2006-07. He is not, however, a university vice-chancellor or president, but an American football coach.
Pete Carroll, who coaches at the University of Southern California, was followed in the list by David N. Silvers, professor of dermatology at Columbia University, who earned more than $4.3 million.
Among the top-ten earners was another Columbia academic, Jeffrey W. Moses, a professor of medicine, who received $2.53 million.
Like Columbia, Vanderbilt University had two employees among the top-ten earners. Harry R. Jacobson, vice-chancellor of health affairs, and Norman B. Urmy, former executive vice-president of clinical affairs, earned about $2.56 million and $2.42 million respectively.
Of the 88 private-college employees who earned more than $1 million a year, only 11 were chief executives. Nevertheless, their annual pay still outstripped their counterparts in the UK, averaging about $500,000 a year, according to the Chronicle survey.
But with America suffering its worst recession for decades, the size of the pay packets has caused consternation.
Patrick M. Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, told The New York Times: "It may be reasonable for these people to be well paid, but if faculty is getting 2 per cent rises, I don't see why senior administrators who are already highly paid should get much larger increases. It reflects a set of values that is not the way most Americans think of higher education."
Top earners at private US higher education institutions
- Annual salaries for employees other than chief executives, 2006-07
- Pete Carroll, Head football coach, University of Southern California $4,415,714
- David N. Silvers, Clinical professor of dermatology, Columbia University $4,332,759
- Michael M.E. Johns, Executive vice-president, health affairs, Emory University $3,753,067
- Arthur H. Rubenstein, Executive vice-president and dean, School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania $3,335,767
- Zev Rosenwaks, Professor, Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility, Cornell University $3,149,376
Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education.