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One in six universities refuse to answer FOI requests on vice-chancellors' expenses

4 March 2015 | last updated: 10 December 2015

Report reveals UK vice-chancellors earn £260,000 on average and are spending thousands on luxury flights and hotel accommodation, while universities deny access to minutes of 'shadowy' committees setting senior pay.

University bosses enjoyed an average salary of £260,000 and spent up to £60,000 on premium flights last year, according to a new report released today by UCU. However 16% of institutions (24 out of 155) either refused to respond to the union's FOI requests or used exemptions to avoid releasing the information it asked for.

The report, Transparency at the top? Senior pay and perks in UK universities [1mb], also revealed that 18 vice-chancellors enjoyed a salary hike of over 10%, despite overseeing a bitter pay dispute that saw staff take strike action to secure a 2% pay deal. Some university vice-chancellors ran up thousands of pounds in annual hotel bills and expenses claims.

UCU says its report exposes how UK universities adopt hugely varying levels of transparency around vice-chancellors' pay and perks. Seven simply did not respond and the other 17 used various FOI exemptions to avoid releasing the information. The majority of institutions responded to some of the requests for information and used exemptions on others, or said they did not keep the information.

In 2013/14 the average vice-chancellor in a UK university spent £9,706 on flights, of which over two-thirds (68%) were in first or business class. They racked up an average hotel bill of £3,202 and claimed expenses of £3,113.

Leading the way on flight expenditure was the LSE's Craig Calhoun who spent £59,812 on first or business class flights. Pamela Gillies at Glasgow Caledonian University was the largest spender on hotels, running up bills totalling £27,271 in 2013/14, and Gavin Henderson of London's Royal Central School for Speech and Drama boasted the largest expense account of £33,526.

In 2013/14, the average salary for vice-chancellors was £260,290. Eighteen vice-chancellors enjoyed a pay increase of more than 10%, while the largest increase was 70.2%. On average, vice-chancellors were paid 6.4 times more than an average member of staff. The report also reveals that 20 institutions had more than 100 members of staff earning over £100,000 a year.

In an attempt to understand the rationale for setting higher salaries, UCU also requested a copy of the most recent minutes of the remuneration committee - the committee tasked with determining its vice-chancellor's pay - and if the vice-chancellor sat on that committee.

Only half of the institutions (50%) provided a copy of the minutes. Of those minutes provided (51%) had been redacted to obscure key information. Over two-thirds of vice-chancellors (71%) are either members of the remuneration committee or can attend.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt, said: 'What has been most striking is the huge variation in universities' responses to our requests for information. Too many institutions refused to provide any information on expenses and the majority showed a strong determination to keep the details of decisions on senior pay a closely-guarded secret.

'Even where minutes of the committee tasked with setting senior pay were supplied, they were often redacted to the point where they were rendered meaningless.

'Many staff and students will be amazed at the size of vice-chancellors' salaries, and at the largesse displayed by some university leaders when it comes to first class flights, hotels and other expenses. That this is happening in public institutions which are largely funded by the taxpayer and students makes the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding senior pay and perks a national scandal.

'UCU has raised with ministers time and again the need for a national register of pay and perks, which would also set out the rationale for any increases. We need agreed standards for open and transparent governance in our universities so trust in the system can be restored.'

* Overall, 24 of the 155 institutions contacted did not provide responses to the union's FOI requests.

Seven institutions simply did not respond to the request at all. They were:

  • University of Southampton
  • Buckinghamshire New University
  • Coventry University
  • De Montfort University
  • Edge Hill University
  • University College London
  • University of West London

Fourteen institutions employed exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act to avoid answering all the questions relating to their vice-chancellor's pay and expenses. They were:

  • Leeds Beckett University
  • Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine
  • Newcastle University
  • Open University
  • University of Bath
  • University of Birmingham
  • University of Bradford
  • University of Huddersfield
  • University of Leeds
  • University of Lincoln
  • University of Northampton
  • University of Sunderland
  • University of Warwick
  • University of Wolverhampton

The University of Sussex replied and said it would not provide any response as the request exceeded appropriate limit and fee regulations. St George's University replied, but did not put any response in to the questions leaving them blank and the University of Winchester said it did not hold the information.


Top five spenders on air fares

University

Vice-chancellor

Flight expenditure 2013/14 (£)

Expenditure on Business and First Class flights 2013/14 (£)

%age of flight expenditure on Business and First Class flights

1

London School of Economics

Professor Craig Calhoun

59,811.14

59,566.14

99.6%

2

Bath Spa University

Professor Christina Slade

41,977.83

40,794.21

97.2%

3

Middlesex University

Professor Michael Driscoll

37,802.81

37,802.81

100%

4

University of Oxford

Professor Andrew Hamilton

34,210.71

Not provided

Not provided

5

University of Strathclyde

Professor Sir Jim McDonald

33,508.00

Not provided

Not provided

The average spend on air fares for vice-chancellors during 2013/14 was £9,705.75
The average percentage of overall flight expenditure spend on business and first class flights during 2013/14 was 67.6%


Top five spenders on hotel accommodation

University

Vice-chancellor

Hotel accommodation expenditure 2013/14 (£)

1

Glasgow Caledonian University

Professor Pamela Gillies

27,271

2

University of Exeter

Professor Steve Smith

20,330

3

University of Liverpool

Sir Howard Newby

12,573

4

Plymouth University

Professor Wendy Purcell

11,974

5

University of Bristol

Professor Eric Thomas

10,307

The average spend on hotel accommodation for vice-chancellors during 2013/14 was £3,202.


Top five expenses claimants

University

Vice-chancellor

Expenses 2013/14 (£)

1

Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Professor Gavin Henderson

33,526

2

University of Aberdeen

Ian Diamond

23,910

3

Queen Mary University of London

Professor Simon Gaskell

22,703

4

University of Salford

Professor Martin Hall

22,592

5

Royal Holloway, University of London

Professor Paul Layzell

18,287

The average spend on expenses for vice-chancellors during 2013/14 was £3,113.


Biggest earners

University

Vice-chancellor

Emoluments - all elements 2013/14 (£)

1

Nottingham Trent University

Professor Neil Gorman

623,000

2

London Metropolitan University

Professor Malcolm Gillies

453,000

3

University of Oxford

Professor Andrew Hamilton

442,000

4

London Business School

Professor Sir Andrew Likierman

419,000

5

The Open University

Martin Bean

412,000

6

University of Birmingham

Professor Sir David Eastwood

410,000

7

University of Exeter

Professor Steve Smith

400,000

8

University of Bath

Professor Glynis M Breakwell

395,000

9

London School of Economics

Professor Craig Calhoun

394,000

10

University of Surrey

Sir Christopher Snowden

392,000

The average total emoluments for heads of institutions (including benefits in kind and pensions) in 2013/14 was £260,290


Biggest percentage pay increases

University

Vice-chancellor

%age change 2012/13 to 2013/14

Emoluments - all elements 2013/14 (£)

Emoluments - all elements 2012/2013 (£)

1

Nottingham Trent University

Professor Neil Gorman

70.2

623,000

366,000

2

London Metropolitan University

Professor Malcolm Gillies

53.6

453,000

295,000

3

University of Portsmouth

Professor Graham Galbraith

19.8

271,558

217,909

4

Royal Academy of Music

Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

18.0

251,737

206,341

5

University of Kent

Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow

16.2

265,000

222,000

6

Bath Spa University

Professor Christina Slade

15.7

299,000

252,000

7

Imperial College London

Sir Keith O'Nions

15.2

389,000

330,000

8

Royal Northern College of Music

Professor Linda Merrick

14.7

159,507

136,000

9

Cranfield University

Sir Peter Gregson

14.5

310,000

265,000

10

 University of Exeter

Professor Steve Smith

14.5

400,000

342,000

The average pay increase for university chancellors between 2012/13 and 2013/14 was 1.7%

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