Vice-chancellors pocket almost £1 million in exit payments

First sector-wide analysis of UK vice-chancellors’ pay in 2016-17 reveals more six-figure pay-offs to departing heads

February 22, 2018
Hand full of pound coins
Source: Getty
Cash in hand: v-cs received an average 3.9 per cent pay rise, almost four times the 1.1 per cent increase awarded to rank-and-file staff

Four vice-chancellors shared nearly £1 million in payouts as they stepped down from office last year, Times Higher Education can reveal.

This year’s annual THE pay survey – the first sector-wide analysis of university executive pay in 2016-17 – found that three vice-chancellors received six-figure payouts when they left their posts.

One of them was Cliff Allan, the former vice-chancellor of Birmingham City University, who was paid £186,876 as “compensation for loss of office” when he stepped down suddenly in October 2016, the university’s accounts show. At the time of Professor Allan’s departure, the university claimed that it was for “personal reasons”. The institution told THE that its former leader “received compensation in line with the terms of his contract”.

The highest pay-off went to Christina Slade, the former vice-chancellor of Bath Spa University, who received a £429,000 payment as part of an £808,000 overall pay package, while Michael Farthing picked up £230,000 “in lieu of notice” in his final month in charge at the University of Sussex, as revealed by THE in November.

The University of Hull also paid £74,000 to its outgoing vice-chancellor Calie Pistorius “in connection with his retirement from office”. The payment related to a three-month sabbatical taken in his final six months which saw him return to office for a handover period, the university said. This means that payments made to the four departing vice-chancellors totalled £919,876 in 2016-17.

According to this year’s survey, UK vice-chancellors received an average of £268,103 in salary, bonuses and benefits in 2016-17, some £10,180 more than in 2015-16.

That represents a 4 per cent rise on average – almost four times the 1.1 per cent increase awarded to rank-and-file staff that academic year. Once employer pension contributions are included, vice-chancellors received a total mean pay package of £289,756, a 3.2 per cent rise on 2015-16. Some 13 universities paid their leaders more than £400,000 in 2016-17 and 64 institutions paid more than £300,000, accounts show.

UK vice-chancellor pay, 2016-17: top 10

University  Vice-chancellor Remuneration,
including benefits (£) 
Total remuneration,
including pension (£)  
Bath Spa University  Christina Slade~ *  719,000 808,000
University of Sussex   Michael Farthing~*/Adam Tickell  533,000 545,000
University of Bath  Dame Glynis Breakwell  471,000 471,000
London Business School  Sir Andrew Likierman~  448,000 458,000
University of Hull   Calie Pistorius~**/Glenn Burgess  396,000 449,000
University of Birmingham   Sir David Eastwood  439,000 439,000
Imperial College London  Alice Gast  369,000 433,000
University of Southampton   Sir Christopher Snowden  424,000 433,000
University of Oxford    Louise Richardson  366,000 430,000
University of Sheffield   Sir Keith Burnett  426,589 426,589

~ now left office
* includes "compensation for loss of office": £429,000 (Bath Spa), £230,000 (Sussex)
** includes payment of £74,000 "in connection with his retirement from office"

Source: THE analysis of university accounts

The highest-paid vice-chancellor currently in post is Dame Glynis Breakwell, who was paid £471,000 in salary and benefits in 2016-17 following a £20,000 pay rise last year, having also topped the pay charts in 2015-16.

Last year, Dame Glynis became a focal point for criticism of vice-chancellors’ pay, which led to the university’s court passing a vote of no confidence in her leadership in January, two months after she agreed to retire later this year.

Latest accounts, however, show that a director at BPP University – one of the UK’s three for-profit universities – was paid more than Dame Glynis in 2016-17, earning £567,000 in total, which included £144,000 in “compensation for loss of office”.

BPP declined to say who the highest-paid director was, but said the figure “does not relate to the current or previous vice-chancellor” – the latter of whom is Carl Lygo, now an Office for Students board member, who left the university in March 2017. Tim Stewart, the current vice-chancellor of BPP, which is owned by US-based Apollo Education Group, has a salary of £240,000, a spokeswoman added.

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