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Edinburgh University gives new principal £410,000 deal as staff prepare for USS pension strikes

1 February 2018 | last updated: 2 February 2018

The incoming principal at Edinburgh University, Professor Peter Mathieson, has accepted a 33% salary hike as part of a welcome package worth £410,000.

UCU said the figures were extraordinary at a time when universities are under fire for the excessive pay and perks of their leaders and looking to slash the pension benefits of staff.

The union said the news exposed just how out of touch those in charge of universities were and said higher education faced a crisis of leadership. Staff are set to walk out at 61 universities, including Edinburgh, for 14 days in a wave of strikes over pensions starting on 22 February.

Professor Peter Mathieson will be paid a basic salary of £342,000 - £85,000 more than predecessor Sir Timothy O'Shea. Mathieson will also receive £42,000 in lieu of pension contributions and relocation costs of £26,000, taking his package up to £410,000. He will live in a five-bedroom grace-and-favour home in central Edinburgh.

Professor O'Shea's total package last year was £321,000 according to the university's accounts. That included a salary of £257,000, benefits of £28,000 and £36,000 towards pension and life cover.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'Edinburgh must have looked at months of terrible headlines for higher education about pay and perks and considered the growing unrest about efforts to slash staff pensions. They have considered all this and decided a massive salary hike, a welcome package over £400,000 and a five-bed central Edinburgh home is the best response. It is quite incredible.

'There is a real crisis of leadership in our universities at the moment and things will come to a head when staff, who have been let down time and again by their leaders, walk out at 61 universities in the row over pensions. I implore vice-chancellors to show some leadership and to talk to us to resolve the dispute.

'Universities have promised time and again to get to grip with excessive senior pay and perks, yet this latest example shows they have no intention of doing so. Politicians can talk all they like about tougher sanctions to deal with the problem, but it looks like universities will continue to ignore them.'

The union expects to publish its report looking into senior pay and perks on Monday 26 February. 

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