by Owen Shipton
Last year saw dramatic rises in the salaries of university Vice-Chancellors across the UK, according to findings published by Times Higher Education.
The statistics, which were compiled by the accountancy firm Grant Thornton, show that almost two-thirds of principals and Vice-Chancellors received pay increases that were greater than those experienced by other university staff.
The news has prompted complaints from lecturers at some higher education institutions.
The Vice-Chancellor at the University of Bolton, for example, saw his salary rise by over 25 percent in 2012. After a significant fall in student admissions, the university had previously announced plans to save £5million, an arrangement which may have involved redundancies for some staff.
The findings follow the recent announcement of a £21,000 salary increase for Chris Higgins, the Durham University Vice-Chancellor. In addition to a pension package of £37,000, Higgins will now receive £232,000 in annual wages.
However, the scale of Higgins’ salary is by no means extraordinary. Indeed, it falls below the national average of almost £250,000 a year and is considerably less than the £424,000 paid out to Oxford University’s Andrew Hamilton.
Vice-Chancellors at all of the UK’s Russell Group universities have recently received a similar pay rise as part of a benchmarking process. Procedures that were initially introduced to ensure greater transparency in this sector may now be driving competition between universities to guarantee a competitive wage for their senior staff.
The increase in pay rises may be partially connected to new rules which would see universities pay more tax for making large pension contributions to their employees. Many universities have responded by cutting pension contributions and awarding pay rises to their vice-chancellors instead.
Palatinate spoke to Fiona, a Hild Bede finalist, to gain a student perspective on the figures. She commented that “in order to attract the best people for the job, maybe you have to offer that amount” of money. The CEO of a similar-sized company would probably expect to earn a similar salary.
However, in light of the fact that David Cameron earns only £145,000 a year, she believes that “it does seem excessive to be paying our V-C this much.”
What is your opinion on Chris Higgins’ salary? Comment below and have your say.
Photograph: Durham University