Universities keep remuneration committee minutes under wraps

University and College Union calls for ‘proper transparency of senior pay and perks’

February 15, 2018
Limo under wrap
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Three-quarters of UK universities have refused to provide unredacted minutes of the committees that set executive pay, amid continuing concern about vice-chancellors’ remuneration.

The University and College Union, which sent Freedom of Information requests to 158 institutions asking for details about their remuneration committees, said that it was time for “proper transparency of senior pay and perks in our universities”.

In response to the UCU’s request, 89 providers said that they would share the minutes, but only 40 (25 per cent) were prepared to do so without redacting them at least in part.

The request also asked about the membership of remuneration committees. Only seven respondents said that their vice-chancellor did not sit on the committee and could not attend its meetings. Fifteen refused to respond, and one said that it did not have a remuneration committee.

Of those that did respond and did have a committee, almost half (47 per cent) said that the vice-chancellor was a member. Of those where the vice-chancellor was not a member, only seven said that the vice-chancellor could not attend meetings.

The UCU is calling for vice-chancellors to be barred from sitting on and attending committees that set their own pay – a proposal that is part of the Committee for University Chairs’ new code on remuneration. The union also wants to see student and staff representatives placed on remuneration panels, something that the draft CUC code says is “not normally necessary”.

The UCU also argued that all the minutes of remuneration committees should be made public. The draft CUC code does not follow this, but calls on panels to produce an annual remuneration report, providing assurance to the governing body that it has discharged its responsibilities. It also says that remuneration committees should produce an annual statement “by which stakeholders and regulators can be assured that value for money in senior post holder remuneration is being achieved”.

Sally Hunt, the UCU’s general secretary, said: “The time has come for proper transparency of senior pay and perks in our universities, and that starts with full disclosure of the shadowy remuneration committee. It is scandalous that three-quarters of universities refuse to issue unredacted minutes of these meetings.

“We are pleased that the Office for Students has said it wants to tackle the issue, but plenty of politicians have tried to address the problem in the past and failed. We need the vice-chancellor to be removed from the remuneration committee and staff and students installed at the top table across universities.”

The consultation on the draft CUC code runs until 12 March.

sophie.inge@timeshighereducation.com

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