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81% of vice-chancellors still allowed to attend meeting that sets their pay

20 June 2019 | last updated: 21 June 2019

Despite calls to improve transparency around senior pay at universities, four-fifths of institutions (81%) still allowed their vice-chancellor to attend meetings where their pay was set last year, and only a third (32%) provided full minutes of the meeting.

UCU sent a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to 158 universities asking if the vice-chancellor was a member of the remuneration committee or could attend its meeting. It also asked for a copy of the most recent minutes.

Twenty-one universities refused to respond to the FoI, one did not answer the question about its vice-chancellor's attendance and one had no remuneration committee. Of the 135 universities who did respond, the vice-chancellor was allowed to attend meetings at 109 (81%) of them and was a member of the committee at nine* of them.

UCU said it was shocked the figure for the 2017/18 academic year remained so high following the scandals over senior pay and its governance. Last year the union revealed that 95% of vice-chancellor could attend the meetings in 2016/17, which prompted much criticism and promises to improve the governance of senior pay in universities.

Over two-thirds of institutions refused to send back full minutes of the remuneration committee meeting. Twenty-one instiutions did not respond, 52 refused to send any minutes and 34 sent in redacted minutes. Just 50 out of the 157 universities (32%) with a remuneration committee sent a copy of the full minutes.

In November, the education select committee's report into value for money in higher education said the current system of self-regulation for senior management pay was "totally unacceptable". It said that vice-chancellors must never sit on their remuneration committees and this should be enforced by the Office for Students.

In February UCU labelled the Office for Students a "paper tiger" for refusing to deal with the problems surrounding senior pay and perks in universities. The union said vice-chancellors must be banned from attending the meetings and places reserved for staff and students. It is also calling for full disclosure of all remuneration committee minutes.

UCU acting general secretary Paul Cottrell said: 'It is shocking that at the height of the senior pay scandals, a vast majority of our universities thought it was fine for the vice-chancellor to still attend the meeting where their pay was set.

'The recent pay and perks scandals at our universities have been incredibly damaging, yet these figures suggest that the higher education sector still refuses to act. If the OfS won't deal with the issue then the government needs to enforce stronger governance at the top tables of our universities.

'As a minimum, vice-chancellors need to be removed from remuneration committees and staff and student places guaranteed. There must also be full disclosure of the committee's minutes and the justification behind senior pay and perks.'

* The nine institutions where the vice-chancellor or principal was a member of the remuneration committee in 2017/18:
Coventry University
Cranfield University
Heythrop College
Liverpool Hope University
Rose Bruford College
Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts
University of Aberdeen
University of Chichester
University of Portsmouth

Table 1: VC allowed to attend remuneration committee 2017/2018

 

VC allowed to attend remuneration committee?

Yes

109

No

26

No response

21

Did not answer question

1

No committee

1

109 universities said the vice-chancellor could attend. Nine said the vice-chancellor was also a member of the committee.

Table 2: Remuneration committee minutes 2017/2018

 

Sent remuneration committee minutes?

Redacted? Y/N

Yes

84

34

No

52

50

No response

21

 

No committee

1

 

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