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University vice-chancellors’ earnings ‘out of control’

Revelations that leading academics in the UK are earning more than £600,000 while other staff have seen their pay cut, is evidence that the benefits awarded to vice-chancellors are “completely out of control”, according to a universities union.

A string of freedom of information requests by the TaxPayers’ Alliance and the Daily Mail showed that more than 7,500 staff at universities earned more than £100,000 last year, including several vice-chancellors and professors earning more than £600,000.

The details include several cases of highly paid officials at universities that are reliant on income from undergraduate tuition fees, such as Neil Gorman, vice-chancellor of Nottingham Trent University, listed as being paid £623,000 including a bonus of £250,000; and Malcolm Gillies, the former vice-chancellor of London Metropolitan University, who earned £618,000, including £159,000 upon leaving.

“We have said for many years that the salaries and benefits of vice-chancellors are completely out of control, especially when compared with the pay settlements given to university staff who have seen their pay cut substantially in real terms since 2009,” said Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, which represents academic staff. “The reality for many staff in the sector is job insecurity, with more than one third of academics on non-permanent contracts. As higher education is increasingly open to public scrutiny, the continued largesse at the top is both unrepresentative and embarrassing.”

Sorana Vieru, a vice-president of the National Union of Students, said more transparency was needed to monitor high pay within universities. “It is deeply unfair for vice-chancellors to be taking home enormous pay packets while students are struggling to cope with spiralling debt thanks to exorbitant tuition fees and the soaring cost of living,” she said.

In response, universities argued that they needed to pay top rates to attract and retain highly qualified academics, especially those involved in finance or medicine, in a competitive global market.

Recent surveys by the Times Higher Education supplement found big pay rises within the Russell Group of research universities, including a £400,000 pay and bonus package last year for Sir Steve Smith, vice-chancellor of Exeter University, and £415,000 for Alice Gast, rector of Imperial College London.

The revelations come as the new green paper on higher education published last week suggested that universities could be exempted from freedom of information legislation, which would have the effect of blocking embarrassing requests over pay.

The latest requests showed that London School of Economics director, Craig Calhoun, spent £60,000 on overseas travel last year. A spokesman for the LSE said it “is one of the most international universities in the world”, with two-thirds of its students and half of its staff coming from 155 countries, as well as formal collaborations in the US, Asia and Africa. He said: “A crucial part of the director’s role at LSE is to maintain this array of international relationships and establish new links with universities, businesses and non-governmental organisations around the world. Inevitably this involves a significant amount of international travel.”

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Oxford University was the most generous employer, with one unidentified staff member second on the pay list with £630,000 and a further 621 – 5% of its 12,500 staff – earning more than £100,000. Cambridge University saw 387 staff earning £100,000 or more, while University College London had 500.

A spokesman for Oxford University said: “Oxford is a global leader for research and teaching. The university is ranked number two in the world, behind Caltech and ahead of every other major player. To stay there, and ideally to go up one place, we need to keep attracting exceptional minds, who are also highly sought-after by our international competitors. We recruit and retain the very best, and reward their talent appropriately.”

Within the schools sector, the data trawl found that nearly 200 individuals earned more than £100,000 a year. The highest paid was Sir Daniel Moynihan, chief executive of the Harris Federation chain of academies. Moynihan is listed as having earned £375,000, while an unidentified Harris employee is listed as being paid £220,000, the fourth-highest amount on the list. Nine Harris staff earned £150,000 and above, and another 11 earned over £100,000.

Second-highest paid in the sector was Adrian Reed, executive headteacher at the Boston Witham Academies Federation, which manages two primaries, a secondary school and sixth-form college in Lincolnshire. Reed is said to have earned £231,000.

In contrast, the Ark Schools academy chain is listed as having its highest paid employee earning £150,000.


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