Union leaders attacked Sir Howard Newby's record on equal opportunities this week as he prepared to take up his post as chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
The Association of University Teachers said that while Sir Howard was vice-chancellor the University of Southampton treated staff unfairly by keeping a large minority on pension schemes inferior to those of most staff who are on the old universities' Universities Superannuation Scheme.
David Dunn, executive member of the university's AUT branch and assistant director of the University of Southampton New College, said it made a mockery of Sir Howard's avowed commitment to equal opportunities in the sector and boded ill for his role at Hefce.
About 100 staff are not on the USS scheme because they transferred to Southampton when it incorporated the Winchester School of Art and La Sainte Union college using the group transfer of undertakings rules on pensions as well as other terms and conditions. It means that staff on the Teaching Pension Scheme are effectively being paid 6.6 per cent less than their colleagues, often for the same work. The AUT said it hit female academics disproportionately.
A spokesman said that the university had agreed to review the situation in the next academic session, and that it did not accept that there was any discrimination. The university had given staff the right to transfer pensions, which was not a right under the rules.