The study by student group the National Campaign against Fees and Cuts has found that a total of £382 million was spent on staff earning £100,000 a year or more at 19 of the 20 Russell Group members in 2010-11 - roughly twice the amount given to the highest-paid employees in 2003-04.
The proportion of the universities' income spent on their highest-paid staff, such as senior managers and some professors, also soared from 1.8 per cent in 2003-04 to 3.8 per cent last year, the report claims.
University College London topped the Russell Group for expenditure on highly paid staff, the report says, spending more than £50 million on those earning £100,000 or more, some of whom were NHS doctors.
Imperial College London spent almost £40 million on high earners, according to the report, while the University of Oxford spent just over £35 million.
Average remuneration for vice-chancellors rocketed in the period from just under £200,000 to £303,783 last year, the report says. Nearly £4 of every £100 of income in the Russell Group was being spent on the highest-paid staff, the report concludes.
Michael Chessum, a member of the National Union of Students' national executive committee, who co-authored the report, said rising executive pay was a significant drain on universities' budgets.
"When we first berated vice-chancellors about their pay packages, we did so because we felt they were out of touch with ordinary staff and students," he said. "We are now seeing that the amount of money drawn by the highest-paid staff is having a real impact on university finances. This is a real issue, especially when universities are cutting [support] to students."
Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, said that many vice-chancellors had taken modest pay rises, freezes or cuts in recent years. "First-rate leadership and academic talent are crucial if our universities are to continue to excel in such a challenging economic climate."