UK’s top-paid vice-chancellors earn more from sector pension fund

Sir David Eastwood earns £90,000 as USS chair, while Dame Glynis Breakwell gets £50,000

December 21, 2017
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Some of the UK’s best-paid vice-chancellors have received further pay rises from their roles as directors of the sector’s main pension scheme, Times Higher Education can reveal.

Sir David Eastwood, the vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham, was paid £90,000 last year in his capacity as chair of the Universities Superannuation Scheme. Dame Glynis Breakwell, vice-chancellor of the University of Bath, received £50,000 as chair of the fund’s policy committee.

The fees paid to the USS’ 12 directors increased in 2016-17, although they had been frozen for three years before that.

Details of the payments were released to THE by USS and emerged as the scheme looks to plug a £7.5 billion deficit. Universities UK is advocating an end to the USS’ defined benefit scheme, a proposal that will reduce payments to scheme members in retirement.

For vice-chancellors serving on the board, who are appointed by UUK, USS fees are on top of their university salaries. Sir David’s 2016-17 pay package from Birmingham totalled £439,000, up from £426,000 the year before (a 3 per cent increase), and he also stands to gain £80,000 over four years if specific performance targets are met under a “long-term incentive plan”.

Dame Glynis announced her retirement last month amid mounting criticism of her remuneration at Bath, which totalled £468,000 in 2016-17.

The third university leader who sits on the USS board, Sir Anton Muscatelli, principal of the University of Glasgow, was paid £35,000. However a Glasgow spokesman said that Sir Anton “gifts this entire amount every year” to the university, and “always has done”.

“Sir Anton…does it because he thinks it is the right thing to do,” the spokesman said.

Sir David and Dame Glynis declined to answer directly when asked if they did the same.

A spokesman for the University and College Union accused “well-remunerated vice-chancellors” on the USS board of “pulling the ladder up on their staff” at a time when UUK’s proposed reforms “would slash pensions by as much as 40 per cent”.

Roger Brown, former vice-chancellor of Southampton Solent University, said that Sir David and Dame Glynis were on the board only by virtue of being vice-chancellors and that any earnings should therefore “be paid to their employer”.

“Being a vice-chancellor of a university is not a small thing and vice-chancellors are not paid a small salary,” he said. “Everything you do during your time at a university should be to the credit of the university.”

The USS’ annual company report says that the remuneration of its 12 directors totalled £731,000 in the year ending March 2017, up from £591,000 the year before.

A USS spokesman said that vice-chancellors sitting on the board “have personal responsibilities to fulfil as directors of the trustee company that are distinct from their other roles”.

“Board members are responsible for the stewardship of a significant financial institution…which requires a substantial commitment of time and effort to demanding roles,” the spokesman said. “They are remunerated on a basis which is approved by the joint negotiating committee, made up of union and employer representatives. No member of the JNC serves on the [USS] board.”

Asked whether he paid his earnings from USS to Birmingham, Sir David answered that he was “committed to giving generously” and that the value of his giving to the university alone “exceeds £100,000”. Asked the same question regarding Bath, Dame Glynis said that she had “always chosen not to publicise the nature, scale or object of my philanthropy”.

About 190,000 staff in mainly pre-92 institutions are covered by the USS. Modelling released by UUK last week indicates that its proposals would reduce pension incomes by up to 17 per cent: for example, a member with 10 years’ service earning between £35,000 and £45,000 could expect an annual income of £22,500, including the state pension, rather than £26,000. UCU’s analysis suggested much higher reductions, of up to 39 per cent.

Board member Role Appointed by Fees for role (£)
Sir David Eastwood Chair UUK 90,000
Kevin Carter Deputy chair Independent 80,000
Dame Glynis Breakwell Sub-committee chair UUK 50,000
Kirsten English Sub-committee chair Independent 50,000
Michael Merton Sub-committee chair Independent 50,000
Rene Poisson Sub-committee chair Independent 50,000
Ian Maybury   Independent 50,000
Dave Guppy   UCU 35,000
Jane Hutton   UCU 35,000
Sir Anton Muscatelli   UUK 35,000
Stuart Palmer   UUK 35,000
Steve Wharton   UCU 35,000

Source: USS. UCU policy states that its nominees should not gain personal benefit from their position on the board if they are in full-time work.

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Reader's comments (1)

As Mike Otsuka has pointed out (see his "UUK can’t transform a sow’s ear into a silk purse"), UUK's comparison of their proposals with the current benefits is a shocking abuse of figures. One of the biggest howlers is using higher best-estimates for investment returns than those which show the defined benefit scheme to be unaffordable. It's disappointing that they show such contempt for their staff.