It has written to business secretary Vince Cable after recent media reports on senior pay including a Times Higher Education investigation last week that revealed vice-chancellors at Russell Group universities had enjoyed an average salary rise of more than £22,000 in 2012-13.
The figure represents an average pay hike of 8.1 per cent and came in the same year as rank and file university staff received an increase of just 1 per cent.
In the letter to Mr Cable, which has also been sent to universities and science minister David Willetts, UCU general secretary Sally Hunt asks for minutes of remuneration committees to be made publicly available, including the justification for pay increases. She also says ministers should remind universities of their own strong words against excessive executive pay, and calls for the inclusion of staff representatives on remuneration committees.
Institutions should collate and publish an annual list of the pay and benefits of vice-chancellors and principals, the letter says, adding that this already happens in publicly funded further education institutions.
“Despite promising to cut back on excessive pay at the top, vice-chancellors continue to hide behind the shadowy remuneration committee when it comes to their pay rises,” Ms Hunt said.
“Vice-chancellors have no problem accepting large rises while at the same time telling their staff there’s no money available and that they must accept another real-terms pay cut. Their continued avarice is an embarrassment for the sector and we urgently need some transparency.”
Trade unions took two days of strike action last term over this year’s 1 per cent pay offer, and the UCU says it expects further disruption this year.
The union says that the “controversial revelations” about vice-chancellors’ pay will have done nothing to calm tensions on campus.
“The latest revelations will do nothing to help bring about peace in an already fractious pay dispute between the staff being given real-terms pay cuts and vice-chancellors who seem oblivious to their own statements about the need for restraint,” Ms Hunt adds.