In response to a recent Palatinate front page article, Durham University released a statement detailing Vice-Chancellor Chris Higgins’s plan to accept only a 1% pay increase in solidarity with the staff.
This decision was agreed upon by the Chair of Remuneration Committee, which determines the Vice-Chancellor’s pay.
In the face of increasing criticism, Higgins decided to join a growing number of University executives, including Queen Mary University and City University in rejecting a pay increase.
The University hastened to add that Professor Higgins is among the lowest paid Russell Group Vice-Chancellors – according to the Times Higher Education, the average Russell Group salary rose by £22,000.
Among those highest paid are University College London’s Sir Malcolm Grant, who received an increase of £41,077 increase in pay and pensions.
Though the Times Higher Education reported Professor Higgins’s overall benefits rising by £14,000 in 2013, the University has so far failed to differentiate what amount of that is salary, and will be frozen, and what is part of overall benefits.
Professor Higgins has also donated all consultancy fees earned while being a Vice Chancellor, an amount that comes to almost £80,000.
These funds were donated to a University fund to support student activities, including purchase of a tympani for the University Orchestra, support for Durham University Light Opera Group (DULOG), student production at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and for individual students.
Further, the University was quick to emphasise the amount the Vice-Chancellor gives out of pocket to philanthropic pursuits in the University itself, for example, for the refurbishment of the University Library on Palace Green.
University spokesperson Mrs Clare Curran, Director of Human Resources, Durham University, said:
“Competitive salary packages are essential to attract and retain outstanding individuals in an international market for talent.
“Under Professor Higgins’s leadership, Durham has achieved UK top-five and a world top-100 university status and has shown greatly improved performance in research and education.
“Despite this, Professor Higgins’s salary remains below average when considered in the context of other leading research-led UK universities.
“In 2013 he personally opted not to take a pay rise and received the one per cent cost of living allowance like everybody else in the University.
“Professor Higgins has consistently supported University activities through personal donations; a large proportion of this money has specifically supported student causes.”
Interested parties such as the various unions who say that the 1% pay increase for staff is unfair have so far offered no comments on the Vice-Chancellor’s decision.
Image Courtesy of Durham University.