Big pay rises for Russell Group chiefs in £9K fees era

Rise in average vice-chancellorial salary far outstrips 1 per cent pay offer to rank-and-file staff

January 2, 2014

Source: Alamy

Sterling work: the salary increases for leaders reflect ‘their roles leading complex international organisations’ with huge turnovers

University vice-chancellors in the Russell Group pocketed substantial pay rises at the same time as tuition fees rose to £9,000 a year, new figures show.

The average vice-chancellorial salary in the group rose by just over £22,000 to nearly £293,000 in 2012-13, according to a Times Higher Education analysis of 19 of the group’s 24 members.

Once pension payments are taken into consideration, those vice-chancellors received an average of £318,500 last year – up from £302,500 in 2011-12.

It means an average salary rise of 8.1 per cent and a 5.2 per cent rise in overall benefits – significantly higher than the 1 per cent pay deal agreed with rank-and-file staff that year.

Among those picking up improved deals last year was the outgoing president and provost of University College London, Sir Malcolm Grant, who received a £41,077 increase in his pay and pensions package to £365,432, despite having spent only three days a week at UCL after taking the chair of NHS England.

A UCL spokesman said that the remuneration board had reversed a 10 per cent pay cut volunteered by Sir Malcolm back in 2010, saying that it regarded his performance as “outstanding”. His £65,000 NHS salary was given to UCL, he added.

Don Nutbeam, vice-chancellor of the University of Southampton, enjoyed a £19,015 rise in emoluments in 2012-13, which took his salary to £294,000 and overall pay package to £333,615.

That pay rise came as Southampton saw a 13 per cent drop in undergraduate acceptances – the largest fall in recruitment of any Russell Group institution.

Professor Nutbeam’s pay was “in line with other Russell Group vice-chancellors” and had increased only once since 2009, a spokesman said.

Michael MacNeil, head of higher education at the University and College Union, whose members have held two one-day strikes over this year’s 1 per cent pay offer, said the salary rises would galvanise members to fight on for improved pay.

“It is the startling hypocrisy that grates more than the actual rises,” said Mr MacNeil.

“Many vice-chancellors have talked down to their staff and told them to accept a 1 per cent rise as it is the best they can expect, while happily pocketing big sums themselves,” he added.

There were also larger vice-chancellorial salaries at the University of Cambridge, which increased the pay package of Sir Leszek Borysiewicz by £20,000 to £334,000, and at Durham University, where warden and vice-chancellor Christopher Higgins saw his overall benefits rise by £14,000 to £283,000.

A Cambridge spokesman said the rise recognised Sir Leszek’s “sustained excellent performance”, while Durham said the increase reflected the university’s “greatly improved performance in research and education”, as evidenced by its higher league table standings and entry to the Russell Group in 2012.

There were also rises for chiefs of non-Russell Group institutions.

For instance, Steve West, vice-chancellor of the University of the West of England, saw his overall pay package rise by £52,434 to £314,632 thanks to a £24,158 performance-related bonus and higher pension contributions.

A UWE spokesman said the bonus was awarded after the institution met a series of targets, including those relating to student satisfaction, financial health and graduate employability.

One of the biggest increases in overall pay and benefits came at the London School of Economics, where incoming director Craig Calhoun was paid a total of £466,000 in 2012-13, including a one-off £88,000 relocation stipend.

That compared with the £0,000 paid in 2011-12 to interim director Judith Rees, who took over from Sir Howard Davies (paid £285,000 in his last full year, 2009-10) after he left amid controversy over the LSE’s links to the Libyan regime of Mu’ammer Gaddafi.

Professor Calhoun’s selection panel had to “ensure [his] salary was appropriate” by viewing “comparative university salaries”, a spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, the highest declared basic salary for 2012-13 in the sector belongs to the University of Birmingham’s David Eastwood, who picked up £400,000 – a first for a UK university – up from £372,000 in 2011-12. However, this figure represented his total pay and benefits package – down from £406,000 in 2011-12 – as he longer received pension payments in 2012-13.

Russell Group director general Wendy Piatt said that the salaries of vice-chancellors “reflect their roles leading extremely complex international organisations with annual turnovers of more than half a billion pounds on average”.

Linking the pay rises to tuition fee increases is “very misleading” because “increased income from fees in England has largely offset significant government cuts to public teaching grants”, Dr Piatt added.

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Reader's comments (1)

This throws a depressing light on our inverted world. The academics, the people upon whom universities' reputations depend, take, in effect, a pay-cut. The V-Cs, essentially front-people, reward themselves for the work of others.