Salaries of high-earning professors to remain confidential

Tribunal ruling against pay transparency will not extend to senior managers at King’s College London

October 9, 2014

Highly paid professors will not have their salaries published after a university overturned a legal ruling on pay transparency, but a number of senior administrative managers will have their pay disclosed.

King’s College London launched an appeal after it was ordered by the Information Commissioner’s Office to release details of 125 staff earning more than £100,000 a year.

Disclosing the data, which was demanded in a Freedom of Information request, was likely to harm its commercial interests because it would help competitors to poach its top researchers, King’s argued.

In a tribunal judgment published on 2 October, Judge Anisa Dhanji agreed that King’s had proved that there was a “real and significant risk of prejudice to its commercial interests” if the information about academic staff was published.

But Ms Dhanji was not as persuaded by evidence presented by King’s that the 15 non-academic staff who earned more than £100,000 a year should also be exempt from the FoI request.

In a two-day hearing, witnesses for King’s explained why publishing the information may damage staff and the university.

Brent Dempster, director of human resources at King’s, said he might find it hard to lure staff from the private sector if they knew their salary was to be made public, while current staff might demand money if they knew what their counterparts at other universities earned. Mr Dempster presented testimony from staff at King’s. One individual said that he feared “unfair commentary in the press” if his salary was known, while “his children may be taunted by other children whose parents earn more or less than he earns”, it was claimed.

However, Ms Dhanji rejected many of these claims. The publication of salary information might lead to ill feeling among less well-paid colleagues but this was unlikely to prejudice any commercial interest. King’s should be able to justify the salaries to staff and donors, as it did with the principal’s pay, she said.

She ruled that King’s should publish salary details on six of the 15 non-academic staff because they are on the principal’s leadership team. They include the viceprincipal for strategy and development, the director of finance and Mr Dempster’s role.

A King’s spokeswoman said the university was “disappointed” by the ruling and is taking legal advice before deciding whether to appeal.

Adalbert Lubicz, who made the original FoI request, added that he was astonished that King’s had sought to block publication on the grounds that staff could use the salary data to see if they were underpaid compared with their colleagues.

“In the context of ongoing gender imbalance in pay, this desire to keep salaries secret for fear that employees might notice an injustice seems a particularly remarkable admission,” he said.

Mr Lubicz also questioned why the judgment failed to specify reasons for dropping the case against 110 academic staff or why it did not refer to US state universities, where salary publication is routine.

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Post-doctoral Research Associate in Chemistry

University Of Western Australia

PACE Data Support Officer

Macquarie University - Sydney Australia

Associate Lecturer in Nursing

Central Queensland University
See all jobs

Most Commented

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi

Alexander Wedderburn

Former president of the British Psychological Society remembered

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham

The University of Aberdeen

Tim Ingold and colleagues at the University of Aberdeen have created a manifesto that they hope will preserve higher education's true values