How much does the sudden exit of a vice-chancellor cost? The answer, according to latest university accounts, can run well into five or even six figures.
Consider the University of Salford, the scene of Martin Hall’s sudden departure in December 2014. Having relinquished line management duties with immediate effect that month, Professor Hall went on sabbatical at the start of January 2015 and eventually retired in June of that year.
Salford’s recently published accounts for 2014-15 confirm that Professor Hall’s basic salary totalled £213,000, just £1,000 shy of his 2013-14 earnings.
In addition, Professor Hall was paid £110,000 in “compensation for loss of office”, including having “legal fees” paid on his behalf.
As was reported at the time, Professor Hall’s departure was announced just four months after the appointment of a new chair of council at Salford, Baroness Hughes of Stretford, and ended a turbulent tenure that included 13 rounds of job cuts in two years and the sacking of a deputy vice-chancellor for alleged gross misconduct.
The accounts also reveal that Salford spent £30,000 covering Professor Hall’s “relocation costs” for his return to his native South Africa.
Once benefits in kind and pension contributions were added, Professor Hall’s total emoluments in 2014-15 came to £394,000 – an increase of £142,000, or 56.3 per cent, on the previous year – while his successor Helen Marshall was simultaneously paid £119,000 as interim and then permanent vice-chancellor.
Another departing vice-chancellor was Michael Scott, who took leave of absence from Glyndwr University “to pursue research and other academic activities” in January 2015 and eventually stepped down at the end of March that year. This came after the institution ran up a £4 million deficit and had its licence to recruit international students suspended.
Glyndwr’s accounts show that Professor Scott’s total remuneration in 2014-15 came to £301,548, up £74,458 (or 32.8 per cent) on the previous year. Some £155,802 of this was pay in lieu of notice, while the interim vice-chancellor, Graham Upton, cost an additional £189,435.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said the case was clear for a “much more open and accountable system for senior pay”.
“It’s particularly concerning to see large pay-offs for those whose leadership has been called into question,” she said.
A Salford spokesman said that the university had “agreed to contribute towards [Professor Hall’s] associated costs related to end of contract and relocation as part of his retirement settlement”.
Professor Upton said that his predecessor’s salary was “fully in accordance” with contractual entitlements and had been decided by a remuneration committee that was “well informed about institutional and personal issues which might be relevant”.
Details have also emerged of a £125,000 payment for loss of office and £45,000 performance-related salary paid by Plymouth University to Wendy Purcell following her move from vice-chancellor to president in 2014-15.
Speaking generally, Michael Shattock, visiting professor at the UCL Institute of Education, said that “golden goodbyes” may be “an inducement to persuade someone to leave who you think may be reluctant to do so”. But he said the widespread lack of formal appraisals in the top levels of university management meant that some vice-chancellors would have had no prior warning of concerns and, therefore, “good arguments to fight being forced out”.