Universities refuse to reveal secret details of pay increases for vice-chancellors

10 April 2014 | last updated: 10 December 2015

Just two UK universities provided details of their vice-chancellor's pay rise for a report looking into the murky world of senior academic pay released today.

  • Four-fifths of universities refuse to even release minutes of committee that sets vice-chancellor's pay
  • Just two sets of minutes from the 27 received list the vice-chancellor's pay increase and a reason for it
  • Minutes show university high earners received presentation on how to maximise their pension pot
  • Minutes suggest some vice-chancellors are consulted about their pay package
  • UCU says taxpayers and students have a right to know the reason behind massive pay rises

The report, from UCU, reveals that just 27 out of 139 institutions sent minutes of their remuneration committee - the powerful committee tasked with setting the vice-chancellor's pay. Of those, half (14) sent redacted minutes and just the universities of Glasgow and Stirling included any sort of details on the pay award.

UCU said the time had come for the lid to be lifted on inflation-busting pay rises for people running universities. UCU called for full details of pay awards and the reasons behind them to be published and staff and student representatives to sit on the clandestine remuneration committees.

Two-thirds of universities (66%) that UCU contacted snubbed its request for the minutes of the committee, often citing confidentiality as the reason. A further 15% did not even respond to the call for information.

Data released last week revealed that vice-chancellors' salaries and benefits rose by an average of 5.5% between 2011-12 and 2012-13. A fifth of universities thought it appropriate to reward their vice-chancellor or principal an annual increase of at least 10% and around of third enjoyed a rise of between 5-10%.  With pension payments, the average vice-chancellor's pay was £254,692.

The union said the reasons given by the two remuneration committees that did include pay details in their minutes were limited to a few words and exposed the arbitrary nature of the rises.

The University of Glasgow said its principal had provided 'excellent leadership' and awarded him a 2% pay rise. Over at the University of Stirling, the committee was less effusive and endorsed a report of 'strong performance by the university under the principal's leadership'. He was awarded a 5% rise.

Vice-chancellors say that they have nothing to do with the remuneration committees' decisions on their pay. However, three of the 27 sets of minutes received - those from the universities of Brighton, Bristol and Dundee - indicated that the vice-chancellor had influenced what would happen to his pay, or that the committee would speak to the vice-chancellor about its plans for his pay (see notes for more).

Just one set of minutes - from Birkbeck - referenced the idea of a union observer on the remuneration committee. However, it was unanimously rejected due to the 'highly confidential' nature of the information being considered.

Although the 27 sets of minutes the union received gave little information on pay, UCU was able to ascertain that at least five universities' remuneration committees (Birmingham City, Brighton, Durham, Strathclyde and Westminster) had enjoyed presentations on how high earners could maximise their pension pots following changes to the pension scheme.

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. Pay talks between the unions and the vice-chancellors' representatives take place on 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: 'Millions of pounds of public money are spent on vice-chancellors' salaries, yet their pay rise is decided behind closed doors with no accountability.

'The time has come for the lid to be lifted on the hitherto murky world of remuneration committees and senior pay in our universities. Students are paying £9,000 a year and they, and the taxpayer, have a right to know why so much of their money is going on paying the vice-chancellor.

'All but five university vice-chancellors earned more than the Prime Minister last year, while staff have been on strike six times this year in protest at a measly 1% pay offer. We believe there is a strong and legitimate public interest to justify these growing six-figure salaries.'

Minutes UCU did receive, and responses from universities refusing to send their minutes through, are available from the press office. See table in notes for institutions' responses.

notes

From the University of Brighton's minutes:

The Committee agreed that the appropriate message to convey was that the Board of Governors wished to pay the Vice-Chancellor a salary between the average and the upper quartile for comparable institutions and a figure that reflected this position was agreed.  However, it was recognised that the sector unions were currently in dispute with employers over pay and the Committee had no wish to put the Vice-Chancellor in a difficult position. It was agreed that the Chairman should convey the Committee's view to the Vice-Chancellor in a private discussion. 

From the University of Bristol's minutes:

The Chair presented his review of the Vice-Chancellor's performance. In light of the review, and given that the Vice-Chancellor had indicated that he did not think a salary increase was appropriate in the circumstances, it was agreed that the salary and benefits should remain unchanged.

From the University of Dundee's minutes:

The Committee noted that the Principal had requested that the issue of his salary should not be discussed by this meeting of the Remuneration Committee but should instead be included in the negotiations regarding his new contract.


Universities' responses to UCU's request for remuneration committee (RC) minutes

Summary report. Browse all responses here.

University

RC minutes received

Redacted

RC minutes not available

No response (by 2/4/14) 

University of Aberdeen

   

University of Abertay

  

Aberystwyth University

  

Anglia Ruskin University

   

The Arts University Bournemouth

   

University of the Arts

  

Aston University

   

Bangor University

   

University of Bath

   

Bath Spa University

   

University of Birmingham

   

Birmingham City University

  

University College Birmingham

   

Bishop Grosseteste University

   

University of Bolton

   

Bournemouth University

   

University of Bradford

   

University of Brighton

   

University of Bristol

  

Brunel University

   

Buckinghamshire New University

   

Canterbury Christ Church University

   

Cardiff University

   

Cardiff Metropolitan University

   

University of Central Lancashire

   

University of Chester

   

University of Chichester

   

City University London

   

Coventry University

   

Cranfield University

   

University for the Creative Arts

   

University of Cumbria

   

De Montfort University

   

University of Derby

   

University of Dundee

  

Durham University

   

University of East Anglia

   

University of East London

   

Edge Hill University

   

University of Edinburgh

   

Edinburgh Napier University

   

University of Essex

   

University of Exeter

   

Falmouth University

   

University of Glasgow

   

Glasgow Caledonian University

   

University of Gloucestershire

   

University of Greenwich

   

Glyndŵr University

   

Harper Adams University

   

Heriot-Watt University

   

University of Hertfordshire

   

University of the Highlands & Islands

   

University of Huddersfield

   

University of Hull

   

Imperial College London

   

Keele University

   

University of Kent

   

Kingston University

   

Lancaster University

   

University of Leeds

   

Leeds Metropolitan University

   

Leeds Trinity University

   

University of Leicester

  

University of Lincoln

   

University of Liverpool

   

Liverpool Hope University

   

Liverpool John Moores University

   

University of London

   

Birkbeck, University of London

  

Central School of Speech and Drama

   

Goldsmiths, University of London

   

Heythrop College

   

Institute of Cancer

   

Institute of Education

   

King's College London

   

London Business School

  

London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)

   

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

   

Queen Mary, University of London

   

Royal Academy of Music

   

Royal Holloway, University of London

   

Royal Veterinary College

   

St George's, University of London

  

University College London

   

London Metropolitan University

   

London South Bank University

   

Loughborough University

   

University of Manchester

   

Manchester Metropolitan University

   

Middlesex University London

  

Newcastle University

   

Newman University

   

University of Northampton

   

Northumbria University

   

Norwich University of the Arts

   

University of Nottingham

   

Nottingham Trent University

   

The Open University

   

University of Oxford

   

Oxford Brookes University

   

University of Plymouth

   

University of Portsmouth

   

Queen's University Belfast

   

Queen Margaret University

   

University of Reading

   

The Robert Gordon University

   

Roehampton University

   

Royal Agricultural University

   

Royal College of Art

   

University of St Andrews

   

University of St Mark and St John

   

University of Salford

  

University of Sheffield

   

Sheffield Hallam University

   

University of Southampton

   

Southampton Solent University

   

University of South Wales

   

Staffordshire University

   

University of Stirling

   

University of Strathclyde

   

University of Sunderland

   

University of Surrey

   

University of Sussex

   

Swansea University

  

Teesside University

   

University of Ulster

   

University of Wales Trinity Saint David

   

University of Warwick

   

University of West London

   

University of Westminster

 •

 •

  

University of the West of England

   

University of the West of Scotland

   

University of Winchester

   

University of Wolverhampton

   

University of Worcester

   

University of York

   

York St John University

   

Comments