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Voluntary code on vice-chancellors' pay is 'woefully inadequate'

6 June 2018

UCU has described a new voluntary code to cover vice-chancellors' pay as 'woefully inadequate'. The union was commenting on the release of the remuneration code from the Committee of University Chairs (CUC) released today.

The union said it was particularly disappointed that the code does not ban vice-chancellors from attending the remuneration committee - the committee that sets their pay. Both the code and the accompanying letter from CUC chair Chris Sayers state that vice-chancellors should not be a member of the remuneration committee, but may still attend meetings if they leave the room when their pay is discussed.

UCU said the bizarre gentleman's agreement where the boss steps outside while the committee discussed their pay deal would do nothing to tackle excessive pay. A recent UCU report discovered that 95% of vice-chancellors can attend the committee that sets their pay, even if some already leave the meeting when their own pay comes up.

Vice-chancellors' pay and perks have made headlines in recent years despite a long list of ministers promising to take measures to reign in the worst excesses. Previous pleas for restraint have fallen on deaf ears and UCU said that another voluntary code was unlikely to make much difference.

The union said vice-chancellors defending their pay deals while boasting about Bentleys or comparing themselves to Premiership footballers had done little to suggest they understood why their huge hikes were a problem and emphasised just how out of touch many of them were.

UCU also said staff and students need to have a place on university remuneration committees to ensure leaders can be held properly accountable.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'This woefully inadequate code is nothing more than another plea for restraint to a group of people who have ignored every previous request. It is staggering that it does not even ban vice-chancellors from attending the meetings where their pay is set. A bizarre gentleman's agreement where the boss steps outside while their pay is discussed is not how you tackle excessive pay.

'The embarrassing comparisons some vice-chancellors made between themselves and bankers and footballers, or the pride they have taken in their Bentleys and yachts, has demonstrated how out of touch they are.

'If university leaders are to be held properly accountable, we need students and staff to be sitting on the committees which set their pay.'

Last updated: 6 June 2018