Plans to force English universities to publish the salary details of all staff earning more than £150,000 have been criticised as “disproportionate” and potentially damaging by leading institutions.
While the new Office for Students has pledged to tackle the “excessive pay of vice-chancellors”, its new proposals go much further on the issue by insisting that institutions publish the job descriptions of all staff earning more than £150,000 a year. Universities must also disclose “full details of the remuneration packages of those staff, including bonuses and pension contributions” and provide a justification of this pay that references “performance against outcome measures”.
Under the plans, published in the OfS’ consultation on its new regulatory framework, releasing these details would be an “ongoing condition of registration” to the new higher education regulator.
The proposed new requirement is likely to oblige universities to report details of hundreds of academics and high-earning administrators, in addition to vice-chancellors.
In its response to the OfS consultation, the Russell Group, which represents 24 research-intensive universities, says that “around three-quarters of those paid over £150,000 are on academic contracts (including clinical academics where the pay scales are set by the NHS)”.
Describing the plans as “disproportionate”, the Russell Group says that they “risk undermining the ability of institutions to compete in an international market for academic and professional services talent”.
“It would be counterproductive to UK higher education and research to make the reward arrangements of top-performing academics and managers known to competitors,” it adds.
The Russell Group has urged the OfS to allow universities to continue with current arrangements under which they sign up to the Committee of University Chairs’ voluntary code on pay, which is currently under review.
“We support the need for greater transparency in senior staff remuneration but have concerns about the regulatory burden that will be imposed by [these] detailed requirements,” says the university, which, according to its annual accounts, paid 48 individuals more than £150,000 in 2016-17.
The requirement is also likely to lead to greater transparency in the rare cases in which some universities’ staff are paid more than the vice-chancellor.
At the University of Cambridge, four staff members were paid more than the £355,000 salary earned by Sir Leszek Borysiewicz in 2016-17, with the highest-paid earning between £640,000 and £650,000, university accounts state. Three staff members at the University of Oxford earned more than Louise Richardson, its vice-chancellor, whose salary was £366,000 that year, with the highest-paid earning between £880,000 and £890,000.