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University bosses should deduct their own salaries for 'partial performance'

27 May 2023

UCU has today said vice-chancellors threatening to dock staff pay for taking part in the marking and assessment boycott should instead donate part of their own salary for failing to bring forward an improved offer to end the dispute

The union said university leaders are failing in their duty to protect students by not pushing their employer body, the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), to get back to negotiations with a better offer and bring an end to the marking and assessment boycott. 

UCU has called on university vice-chancellors to donate half their pay - a total of £80k per day across the sector - to student hardship funds for every day they continue to threaten pay deductions and UCEA fails to bring forward an improved offer. 

The 145 vice-chancellors involved in the marking boycott earn a combined salary of over £14m, or around £160k per day1. Yet they are putting student graduations at risk by refusing to call on their employer body to negotiate with UCU, and squandering good will amongst staff by threatening punitive pay deductions. 

In the majority of institutions, staff taking part in the boycott are facing deductions of between 50% and 100% for so-called 'partial performance'. UCU said the deductions are completely wrong-headed and should be withdrawn, but that while they continue it cannot be one approach for staff and another for university leaders. The union said it is not staff but vice-chancellors who are guilty of 'partial performance' for failing to protect students' academic progression, and is therefore calling on them to dock their own pay and donate it to students whose graduations they are jeopardising. 

UCU members at 145 universities across the UK began boycotting marking and assessments last month in an ongoing pay and working conditions dispute after they rejected a pay offer worth 5%. The boycott will continue until employers make staff an acceptable offer. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: 'University staff are still turning up to work every day, yet vice-chancellors are hitting them with brutal pay deductions of up to 100%. These threats are vindictive and plain wrong, but while they continue there cannot be one approach for staff and another for bosses. So, until they withdraw their punitive threats, those who run our universities need to stop squandering good will and bring forward an improved offer in negotiations. It is only right that they dock their own pay for 'partial performance' and donate it to the students whose futures they are threatening.'

1 VC salaries combined


Total salary 

Total remuneration 

Total annual salary* (all VCs in dispute) 



Total day rate* (gross) 



Total 50% deduction* 






Avg annual salary (average of all VCs in dispute) 



Avg day rate (gross) 



50% deduction 






Data source: HESA Finance record 2021/22 



*Note that financial data is missing for 7 providers in the dispute so this is an underestimation 




In 2021/22, the most recent year that data is available for, at the 145 institutions faced with the marking and assessment boycott: post-grad 351,000, undergrad 478,000. 

The total number of students at the 145 institutions in 21/22 was: post-grad 741,000, undergrad: 1,867,000 

Last updated: 30 May 2023