Vice chancellors award themselves pay rise as lower-paid staff suffer real-term pay cut

Tim Lezard

UCUUniversity vice-chancellors have been criticised for enjoying significant pay rises as staff endure real-terms pay cuts and rises in pension contributions.

The UCU says the lack of self-awareness from university bosses, who pleaded poverty when it came to paying staff, was an embarrassment to higher education.

Pay and benefits for university leaders increased, on average, by more than £5,000 in 2011-12, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors hitting almost £250,000, according to the annual Times Higher Education–Grant Thornton pay survey.

The figures show that university leaders saw their basic salary and benefits package (excluding pension) rise by 2.62 per cent in 2011-2012 to £219,681 on average. In contrast, higher education staff received a flat rise of just £150 in 2011-12 – the third successive year they were given pay rises below 1 per cent.

Some details from the survey are:

·         The average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors in 2011-2012 was £247,428.

·         The highest-paid university leader was Andrew Hamilton, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, whose salary, benefits and pensions package was £424,000.

·         Second highest-paid was David Eastwood (University of Birmingham, £406,000), third was Andrew Likierman (London Business School, £393,000), and fourth was Sir Steve Smith (University of Exeter, £386,000).

·         One of the largest salary increases in 2011-12 went to Dame Glynis Breakwell, vice-chancellor at the University of Bath, whose basic salary rose by £72,000 to £356,000.

·         However, like many VCs, Dame Glynis saw her employer pension contributions fall sharply – in her case, from £65,000 to just £11,000. The reduction in pension contributions follows a change to pension rules, which reduced the amount employees can pay into their pension pots while not incurring tax.

·         Many VCs appear to have received higher upfront salaries in exchange for reduced employer pension contributions.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “While staff have had to endure sharp real-terms pay cuts, those at the top have enjoyed rises. It is particularly galling that this year a number of universities appear to have increased vice-chancellors’ pay packets because they can no longer swell their pension pots.

“Staff not only face considerable real-terms pay cuts, but are also forking out more per month for their own pensions and seeing standards of living drop at a time when students are starting to demand more for their increased fees.

“The lack of self-awareness from university leaders when it comes to their own rewards continues to be an embarrassment for the sector, especially when we consider the recent promises that their pay and perks would be reined in. It looks very much like one rule for those at the top and one for everyone else.”


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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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