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University bosses' pay survey highlights the lack of scrutiny of pay at the top, says union

24 March 2011

UCU said today (Thursday) there was an urgent need for far greater transparency in the 'murky world' of vice-chancellors' pay.

Responding to a survey of pay at the top of UK universities, released this morning in Times Higher Education, the union said there was no clear reason why some vice-chancellors had pocketed huge pay increases and others much smaller ones.

The survey comes just a week after Will Hutton's review of public sector pay recommended that an independent committee should set bosses' pay with clear targets set out that they must meet to receive the full package.

An interim report published in December revealed that universities had the highest pay differential between the top and bottom earners across the entire public sector. On average, vice-chancellors earned 15.35 times the salary of staff at the bottom of the pay spine. In Russell Group universities, the ratio rose to 19:1.

UCU members across the UK are out on strike today in a row over pensions, pay and jobs. In higher education staff, have been offered real term pay cuts over the last two years - in contrast, although vice-chancellors' pay has come down slightly this year, universities spent 10.6% more on vice-chancellors' pay and benefits in 2008/09 than they did in 2007/08. More on the strike action can be found here

Some examples from the Times Higher Education survey:

· The biggest overall spend on pay and benefits, of £433,000, was at the University of Oxford, which paid out a combined figure to vice-chancellor, Andrew Hamilton, and his predecessor John Hood. That figure included £78,000 to cover John Hood's relocation costs.

· The University of Gloucestershire shelled out the second-biggest pay and benefits package in 2009-10. It spent £399,000 on vice-chancellor, Patricia Broadfoot, who stepped down at the end of the academic year. She received a salary of £196,000 and an additional £198,000 as she left, described in the accounts as 'in lieu of notice'.

· Under fire Liverpool Hope University vice-chancellor, Gerald Pillay, who recently announced plans to cut up to 110 jobs, saw his salary increase by 20.6 per cent to £199,077.

· Professor Glynis Breakwell, vice-chancellor of the University of Bath, received a pension contribution of £64,000 on top of a salary of £278,000, taking her annual package to £342,000.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'UCU members in universities are on strike today defending their pay and conditions and it is somewhat galling to discover that many vice-chancellors are still enjoying handsome, and utterly arbitrary, pay hikes.

'One of the reasons vice-chancellors' pay has been so embarrassing for the sector has been the complete lack of transparency behind rises. We want an end to the murky world of pay at the top of our universities and a fair system applied consistently from top to bottom.' 

"We have never opposed people being well-rewarded for a job well done.  However, today's survey does nothing to suggest that vice-chancellors' pay is properly scrutinised or the process for deciding an individual's pay is fit for purpose. Even after years of promising to reign in pay at the top, there are examples of whopping rises."

Last updated: 11 December 2015