Russell Group vice-chancellors’ pay averages £355K

Modest remuneration rises and inclusion of housing costs push average pay packets past £350,000 mark

December 18, 2018
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Vice-chancellors of large research-intensive universities in the UK’s Russell Group were paid just over £355,000 on average in the past academic year, a Times Higher Education analysis shows.

Financial accounts available for 22 of the organisation’s 24 members put the average salary and benefits of a Russell Group vice-chancellor at £355,115 in 2017-18.

Once employer pension contributions were included, the average costs of pay packages stood at £379,156.

However, the latest financial statements show average remuneration paid to leaders of the UK’s top universities rose only slightly in 2017-18 – up by 1.8 per cent from 2016-17

If pension contributions are included, vice-chancellors’ average pay in the Russell Group rose by 1.7 per cent.

Rank-and-file academic staff accepted a 1.7 per cent pay uplift last year, with rises of up to 2.4 per cent for lower paid employees.

Some of the biggest increases in vice-chancellors’ cost of office were caused by one-off costs associated with a change in leadership at the London School of Economics and the University of Cambridge.


Highest-paid vice-chancellors in Russell Group: top 10

Vice-chancellor Institution Pay plus benefits (£) Total remuneration, including pension (£)
Sir Keith Burnett* University of Sheffield 448,519 455,780
Sir David Eastwood University of Birmingham 444,000 444,000
Sir Christopher Snowden University of Southampton 427,000 436,000
Sir Steve Smith University of Exeter 423,000 423,000
Stephen Toope**/Sir Leszek Borysiewicz* University of Cambridge 409,000 492,000
Edward Byrne King's College London 398,000 461,000
Michael Arthur UCL 397,372 397,372
Dame Minouche Shafik**/Julia Black*** London School of Economics 391,000 451,000
Sir Timothy O'Shea*/Peter Mathieson University of Edinburgh 378,000 383,000
Louise Richardson University of Oxford 370,000 447,000

*now retired ** includes relocation costs *** excludes provision for housing. Estimated rental value of university-owned property occupied by head of institution is £54,000 for LSE. UCL rental value of £83,200 is set at £18,191 in accounts.

Figures taken from 2017-18 accounts. Statements for the University of Glasgow and Cardiff University not available at time of collation.


The group’s highest-paid vice-chancellor in 2017-18 was the University of Sheffield’s Sir Keith Burnett, who received a salary and benefits worth £448,519 in his final year of office. That rose to £455,780 if employer pension contributions are considered.

Sheffield’s accounts say that Sir Keith’s remuneration “reflect[s] the importance the university attaches to having a leader in higher education – who is highly respected within and beyond the sector, both in the UK and internationally” and who led a “large and complex organisation with an annual turnover of £692 million”.

Other higher earners included Sir David Eastwood, vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham, who earned pay and benefits of £444,000 in 2017-18.

In a statement, the university said that Sir David’s “total remuneration reflects the size and complexity of the organisation”, which has 34,000 students and 8,000 staff.

Sir David added that he had given more than £100,000 to the university and now gave his earnings as chair of the Universities Superannuation Scheme, worth £90,000 in 2016-17, to a charity that “supports a range of causes across the university”.

Alice Gast, president of Imperial College London, was another high earner. Her salary and benefits amounted to £368,200 in 2017-18 or £432,700 if pension contributions are included.

Imperial’s accounts also state that Professor Gast earned $375,000 (£297,290) as a director of the US energy giant Chevron in the 12 months up to December 2017, as well as $10,000 from the Singapore Academic Research Council. In an email to staff on 11 December, Professor Gast said that she spent about 30 days a year on her external roles, adding that they “strengthen [Imperial’s] relationships and broaden my perspective on international collaboration and best practice in corporate governance”.

Last year’s average pay for Russell Group vice-chancellors was also higher as institutions are now required to declare the value of subsidised housing provided to leaders under new reporting rules in England.

Tim Bradshaw, the group’s chief executive, said that its members were “embracing the legitimate call for greater transparency over senior pay”.

The highest pay package for a UK higher education head in 2017-18 comes from outside the Russell Group. François Ortalo-Magné, dean of London Business School, received £501,000, including £76,000 in employer pension contributions, the school’s accounts indicate.

Dame Glynis Breakwell, who retired as the University of Bath’s vice-chancellor in August after heavy criticism over her pay, also received more than any Russell Group head in 2017-18. Her overall pay package stood at £491,248 if non-taxable benefits of £12,760 relating to subsidised accommodation are considered, accounts show.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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