Vice-chancellors at Russell Group universities received mainly modest salary increases last year despite facing fresh criticism over their so-called “fat cat pay”, new figures show.
Just five Russell Group vice-chancellors enjoyed a salary increase in excess of the 2 per cent rise awarded to rank-and-file university staff in 2014-15, according to a Times Higher Education analysis of 22 of the group’s 24 members.
Some even saw their overall pay package fall, including Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, vice-chancellor at the University of Cambridge, whose total remuneration dropped by 5.5 per cent from £344,000 in 2013-14 to £325,000 last year owing to lower pension contributions by his employer.
Craig Calhoun, director of the London School of Economics, saw his overall remuneration fall by 3.3 per cent from £394,000 to £381,000 in 2014-15.
Overall, the average salary for a Russell Group vice-chancellor was £321,830 last year once taxable benefits were included. Once pensions are included, it was £355,664 – 6 per cent higher than the equivalent remuneration in 2013-14.
However, that dramatic increase is largely caused by the costs incurred by Durham University last year as it replaced its then vice-chancellor and warden, Chris Higgins, in October 2014 with an interim vice-chancellor, Ray Hudson.
As part of “transitional arrangements”, Professor Higgins continued as a pro vice-chancellor until his retirement in June 2015, for which he was paid a total of £268,000 as well as £82,000 “at the conclusion of his role as an ambassador for the university”, Durham’s annual accounts state.
With Professor Hudson also paid £243,000 that year for his executive role, Durham’s total cost of office in 2014-15 stood at £593,000 – more than double that paid in 2013-14.
Once Durham is removed from calculations, remuneration of Russell Group leaders, including pensions, increased by just 1.9 per cent on average last year. Average pay, including pensions, stood at £344,362.
The total remuneration of £430,000 paid to Alice Gast in her first year as president and rector of Imperial College London was 10.5 per cent more than the £389,000 paid to outgoing head Sir Keith O’Nions in 2013-14.
One of the highest basic pay rises went to Sir Eric Thomas, former vice-chancellor of the University of Bristol, whose total remuneration in his final year in office rose by £23,000 to £344,000, a 7 per cent increase.
Other vice-chancellors to earn above £400,000 last year include the University of Birmingham’s Sir David Eastwood (£416,000) and the University of Bath’s Dame Glynis Breakwell (£406,000), latest financial accounts show.
Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said the salaries of vice-chancellors and other senior staff at its universities are “commensurate with remuneration for running extremely complex, highly successful international organisations with average annual turnovers of more than half a billion pounds”.
“The remuneration committees which decide these salaries are acutely aware that to continue the global success of these institutions, world-class leadership and academic talent is required, particularly through uncertain times,” said Dr Piatt.
“Universities are autonomous institutions and it is vital that they are free to recruit and retain the necessary leadership to remain globally competitive,” she added, saying that institutions would “continue to work closely with staff and unions to ensure that we provide competitive but sustainable pay and conditions for our highly-valued staff”.
Top Russell Group pay packages in 2014-15
|Vice-chancellor||University||Salary, including benefits, 2014-15 (’000)||Total remuneration, including pensions, 2014-15 (’000)|
|Andrew Hamilton*||University of Oxford||407||462|
|Ed Byrne||King’s College London||402||458|
|Alice Gast||Imperial College London||374||430|
|Sir David Eastwood||University of Birmingham||416||416|
|Sir Steve Smith||University of Exeter||341||393|
|Sir Keith Burnett||University of Sheffield||385||385|
|Craig Calhoun||London School of Economics||331||381|
|Sir David Greenaway||University of Nottingham||295||381|
|Michael Arthur||University College London||359||359|
|Sir Nigel Thrift||University of Warwick||349||349|
|Sir Eric Thomas*||University of Bristol||303||344|
*Has since left institution
Figures rounded to the nearest thousand