UCU report shows university bosses enjoyed an average salary of £260,000 and spent up to £60,000 on premium flights last year

The Chancellor of LSE (above) last year spent £60,000 on first or business class flights

The Chancellor of LSE (above) last year spent £60,000 on first or business class flights

University bosses enjoyed an average salary of £260,000 and spent up to £60,000 on premium flights last year, according to a new report released today by the UCU.

However 16% of institutions (24 out of 155) either refused to respond to the union’s FOI requests or used exemptions to avoid releasing the information it asked for.

The report – Transparency at the top? Senior pay and perks in UK universities – also revealed that 18 vice-chancellors enjoyed a salary hike of over 10%, despite overseeing a bitter pay dispute that saw staff take strike action to secure a 2% pay deal. Some university vice-chancellors ran up thousands of pounds in annual hotel bills and expenses claims.

UCU says its report exposes how UK universities adopt hugely varying levels of transparency around vice-chancellors’ pay and perks. Seven simply did not respond and the other 17 used various FOI exemptions to avoid releasing the information. The majority of institutions responded to some of the requests for information and used exemptions on others, or said they did not keep the information.

In 2013/14 the average vice-chancellor in a UK university spent £9,706 on flights, of which over two-thirds (68%) were in first or business class. They racked up an average hotel bill of £3,202 and claimed expenses of £3,113.

Leading the way on flight expenditure was the LSE’s Craig Calhoun who spent £59,812 on first or business class flights. Pamela Gillies at Glasgow Caledonian University was the largest spender on hotels, running up bills totalling £27,271 in 2013/14, and Gavin Henderson of London’s Royal Central School for Speech and Drama boasted the largest expense account of £33,526.

In 2013/14, the average salary for vice-chancellors was £260,290. Eighteen vice-chancellors enjoyed a pay increase of more than 10%, while the largest increase was 70.2%. On average, vice-chancellors were paid 6.4 times more than an average member of staff. The report also reveals that 20 institutions had more than 100 members of staff earning over £100,000 a year.

In an attempt to understand the rationale for setting higher salaries, UCU also requested a copy of the most recent minutes of the remuneration committee – the committee tasked with determining its vice-chancellor’s pay – and if the vice-chancellor sat on that committee.

Only half of the institutions (50%) provided a copy of the minutes. Of those minutes provided, one-third (33%) had been redacted to obscure key information. Over two-thirds of vice-chancellors (71%) are either members of the remuneration committee or can attend.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “What has been most striking is the huge variation in universities’ responses to our requests for information. Too many institutions refused to provide any information on expenses and the majority showed a strong determination to keep the details of decisions on senior pay a closely-guarded secret.

“Even where minutes of the committee tasked with setting senior pay were supplied, they were often redacted to the point where they were rendered meaningless.

“Many staff and students will be amazed at the size of vice-chancellors’ salaries, and at the largesse displayed by some university leaders when it comes to first class flights, hotels and other expenses. That this is happening in public institutions which are largely funded by the taxpayer and students makes the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding senior pay and perks a national scandal.

“UCU has raised with ministers time and again the need for a national register of pay and perks, which would also set out the rationale for any increases. We need agreed standards for open and transparent governance in our universities so trust in the system can be restored.”

* Overall, 24 of the 155 institutions contacted did not provide responses to the union’s FOI requests.

Seven institutions simply did not respond to the request at all. They were:

University of Southampton

Buckinghamshire New University

Coventry University

De Montfort University

Edge Hill University

University College London

University of West London


Fourteen institutions employed exemptions under the Freedom of Information Act to avoid answering all the questions relating to their vice-chancellor’s pay and expenses. They were:

Leeds Beckett University

Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Newcastle University

Open University

University of Bath

University of Birmingham

University of Bradford

University of Huddersfield

University of Leeds

University of Lincoln

University of Northampton

University of Sunderland

University of Warwick

University of Wolverhampton

The University of Sussex replied and said it would not provide any response as the request exceeded appropriate limit and fee regulations. St George’s University replied, but did not put any response in to the questions leaving them blank and the University of Winchester said it did not hold the information.


Top five spenders on air fares

  University Vice-chancellor Flight expenditure 2013/14 (£) Expenditure on Business and First Class flights  2013/14 (£) %age of flight expenditure on Business and First Class flights
1 London School of Economics Professor Craig Calhoun 59,811.14 59,566.14


2 Bath Spa University Professor Christina Slade 41,977.83 40,794.21


3 Middlesex University Professor Michael Driscoll 37,802.81 37,802.81


4 University of Oxford Professor Andrew Hamilton 34,210.71 Not provided Not provided
5 University of Strathclyde Professor Sir Jim McDonald 33,508.00 Not provided Not provided

The average spend on air fares for vice-chancellors during 2013/14 was £9,705.75

The average percentage of overall flight expenditure spend on business and first class flights during 2013/14 was 67.6%

Top five spenders on hotel accommodation

  University Vice-chancellor Hotel accommodation expenditure 2013/14 (£)
1 Glasgow Caledonian University Professor Pamela Gillies 27,271
2 University of Exeter Professor Steve Smith 20,330
3 University of Liverpool Sir Howard Newby 12,573
4 Plymouth University Professor Wendy Purcell 11,974
5 University of Bristol Professor Eric Thomas 10,307

The average spend on hotel accommodation for vice-chancellors during 2013/14 was £3,202.


Top five expenses claimants

  University Vice-chancellor Expenses 2013/14 (£)
1 Royal Central School of Speech and Drama Professor Gavin Henderson 33,526
2 University of Aberdeen Ian Diamond 23,910
3 Queen Mary University of London Professor Simon Gaskell 22,703
4 University of Salford Professor Martin Hall 22,592
5 Royal Holloway, University of London Professor Paul Layzell 18,287

The average spend on expenses for vice-chancellors during 2013/14 was £3,113.


Biggest earners

  University Vice-chancellor Emoluments – all elements 2013/14 (£)
1 Nottingham Trent University Professor Neil Gorman 623,000
2 London Metropolitan University Professor Malcolm Gillies 453,000
3 University of Oxford Professor Andrew Hamilton 442,000
4 London Business School Professor Sir Andrew Likierman 419,000
5 The Open University Martin Bean 412,000
6 University of Birmingham Professor Sir David Eastwood 410,000
7 University of Exeter Professor Steve Smith 400,000
8 University of Bath Professor Glynis M Breakwell 395,000
9 London School of Economics Professor Craig Calhoun 394,000
10 University of Surrey Sir Christopher Snowden 392,000

The average total emoluments for heads of institutions (including benefits in kind and pensions) in 2013/14 was £260,290


Biggest percentage pay increases

  University Vice-chancellor %age change 2012/13 to 2013/14 Emoluments – all elements 2013/14 (£) Emoluments  – all elements 2012/2013 (£)
1 Nottingham Trent University Professor Neil Gorman 70.2 623,000 366,000
2 London Metropolitan University Professor Malcolm Gillies 53.6 453,000 295,000
3 University of Portsmouth Professor Graham Galbraith 19.8 271,558 217,909
4 Royal Academy of Music Professor Jonathan Freeman-Attwood 18.0 251,737 206,341
5 University of Kent Professor Dame Julia Goodfellow 16.2 265,000 222,000
6 Bath Spa University Professor Christina Slade 15.7 299,000 252,000
7 Imperial College London Professor Alice Gast 15.2 389,000 330,000
8 Royal Northern College of Music Professor Linda Merrick 14.7 159,507 136,000
9 Cranfield University Sir Peter Gregson 14.5 310,000 265,000
10 University of Exeter Professor Steve Smith 14.5 400,000 342,000

The average pay increase for university chancellors between 2012/13 and 2013/14 was 1.7%

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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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