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Controversy as University of Southampton vice-chancellor pockets 6% pay rise whilst striking staff struggle this winter

20 December 2013 | last updated: 10 December 2015

Staff at Southampton University were left dumbfounded at news that vice-chancellor Don Nutbeam had accepted a £17,000 pay rise, just days after telling them that no money for extra wages could be found.

All three campus trade unions - the University and College Union, Unison and Unite - have called on Professor Nutbeam to reject this pay rise and make the case that universities should invest in their staff, whose pay has fallen by 13% in real terms in the last four years.

UCU, Unison and Unite, who represent staff ranging from cleaners to professors, said that the news was only going to galvanise union members in their campaign for living wages and fair pay. More strike action is planned for the new year if a resolution to the national dispute can't be found.

Local UCU spokesperson, Eric Silverman, speaking on behalf of the campus unions said: 'It is quite outrageous for the vice-chancellor to tell staff to accept a pay rise of 1%, because there's no money left, when he's set to pocket a rise six times that.

'Professor Nutbeam needs to understand that there is not one rule for him and another for everyone else. We call on him to reject this pay rise and to push for a fair pay deal for hard-working university staff. This large increase seems particularly confrontational, given the on-going strike action.'

Anna Lyon of Unison said: 'No-one expected this; it's a real kick in the teeth for hard-working staff, some of whom are relying on food banks this winter. I don't know how he could have stood in front of groups of staff and told us there was no money when he knew it was all in his pocket.'

Students were also left baffled by the decision too. Rhiannon Frame-Jones, a student nurse, said 'Professor Nutbeam's extortionate pay rise offends my innate sense of justice'. Ellie Sangwine-Shirley, a final year Modern Languages Student said 'The VC's pay rise is out of touch with reality; it's more than cleaners earn in a year. How can this possibly be justifiable?'

The pay rise takes Professor Nutbeam's salary to £294,000 - more than twice the earnings of the Prime Minister and far higher than the chief executive of the NHS. The pay rise comes despite Southampton falling in world university rankings in every year Professor Nutbeam has been in charge. Other vice-chancellors have rejected a pay rise this year.