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One-fifth of university heads enjoy pay rise of at least 10%, as staff get real-terms pay cut

3 April 2014

University heads saw their salaries and benefits rise by an average of 5.5% between 2012-13 and 2011-12, according to an in-depth study of academic pay released today.

The annual Times Higher Education pay survey reveals that at a time when staff saw their pay fall in real-terms, a fifth of universities thought it appropriate to reward their vice-chancellor or principal an annual increase of at least 10%. Around of third of vice-chancellors pocketed a rise of between 5-10%.

Universities have been embroiled in a pay row with staff this year and unless the increasingly bitter pay dispute is resolved by the end of April, UCU has said its members will undertake a marking boycott which could put graduations at risk.

The union said today's pay revelations underline the hypocrisy of university leaders who were happy to trouser large pay rises while keeping down staff pay. University staff have seen their pay fall by 13% in real-terms since 2009 and have been out on strike six times (three full-day strikes and three two-hour stoppages) since October in their fight for fair pay.

The union said there was a need for far greater transparency regarding senior pay in universities. UCU said it was time to end a system where university leaders' pay is set by 'shadowy' remuneration committees who award completely arbitrary rises without any transparency.

UCU will be releasing a report next Thursday (10 April) looking at remuneration committees and the clandestine way in which they operate. Pay talks between the unions and employers are scheduled for Tuesday 15 April. UCU's marking boycott is due to start on Monday 28 April if the dispute has not been resolved.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Vice-chancellors and principals have enjoyed considerable pay rises at a time when they have been driving down staff pay. The pay dispute would never have arisen if vice-chancellors had been prepared to offer their staff the generous rises they were taking for themselves. We must hope they will return to negotiations on 15 April with a fair pay deal for their staff.

'Rather than defending or explaining why they merit such handsome rewards, university leaders hide behind decisions made by shadowy remuneration committees. The time has come for the lid to be lifted on senior pay and the quite arbitrary rises fully explained.'

Last updated: 10 December 2015