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Hefce chief executive £550,000 golden goodbye

18 July 2018 | last updated: 23 July 2018

The chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) Professor Madeleine Atkins received a pay package worth £554,648 last year, according to accounts. The deal means Hefce paid Atkins 96% more in 2017-18 than the £282,354 paid to her the previous year.

Although senior pay scandals in higher education have been in the headlines recently, UCU said Professor Atkins' deal still managed to stand out. The union's most recent report into senior pay and perks in universities showed that the average pay deal for university vice-chancellors was £286,891 - a rise of 3.3% on the previous year.

At the height of the scandal over vice-chancellors' pay Professor Atkins said that, while Hefce published guidance on how governing bodies should approach the setting of senior pay, it had no power to set pay levels in universities. She also said that she did not think the debate about pay in higher education was "going to go away any time soon".

Hefce was wound up on 31 March and Professor Atkins' package includes salary, two years of bonuses, redundancy payment, compensation for loss of office and payment for untaken leave. Atkins has donated £67,000 of the package to charity.

The new regulatory body for higher education, the Office for Students, became fully operational on 1 April 2018 under new chief executive Nicola Dandridge who said she took an 18% pay cut when accepting the £165,000 role.

At the most recent pay talks, the universities' representatives (UCEA) made a final offer of just 2%. UCU said the offer does nothing to address the falling value of higher education pay, which has declined in real terms by 21% since 2009.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: 'Higher education has been beset by scandals over senior pay and expenses this year. While much was made of the pay cut taken by the Office for Students chief executive, less has been said about this extraordinary golden goodbye sneaked out in the accounts at the end of term.

'University staff have been offered a shoddy pay deal that will do nothing to arrest the decline in their pay, yet they see those at the top begin rewarded with huge deals once again.'