Vice-Chancellors pay under threat

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Economist Will Hutton has recently drawn up a government-commissioned plan of fairer pay within the public sector, in which the salaries of university vice-chancellors could be cut by 10%.

Under the new proposals, pay will be decided based on performance levels, rather than being fixed.

A report was begun last year to investigate pay in the public sector, and the salaries of those working within the university system has come under scrutiny. It was found that the difference between the top earners and lowest level earners was a huge and unfair divide.

In light of the findings, Will Hutton has proposed that an independent committee would meet to discuss whether vice-chancellors were receiving what they deserved. This committee would include academics and members of the institutions vice-chancellors worked for, in the hope that they would be judged fairly and receive pay only for the work they have done.

Other academics’ pay also has the possibility to drop. The Senior Salaries Review Body would hold sway over the decisions of this committee, if salaries were deemed to be rising too far in a particular organisation.

Hutton had also come up with the plan of fixing a maximum pay differential between highest and lowest earners at 20:1, although this has been discarded in the final report. As well as this, executive pay could be put online, increasing transparency and public accountability.

Executive pay and how it corresponds to the level of responsibility involved would also be explained online.

In May last year, Vince Cable attacked vice-chancellors’ pay, claiming it was “out of step with reality” and criticised pay rises for individuals when the rest of the country was cutting back. Russell Groups were given special mention, as in many institutions, a large proportion of staff’s earning have risen to well over £200,000.

This latest proposal appears to reflect on such criticism and is an attempt to bring salaries in line with other public spending reductions. Last year universities spoke out to justify high salaries, claiming they were in line with private sector pay.

However, Will Hutton has now emphasised the difference between the private sector and universities, saying that “they [universities] are not state bodies, but they are public bodies.”

In January, there was also controversy at the University of York over its vice-chancellor’s 24% pay rise within three years. He was defended by some students, saying the work he did was worth the money. It was also pointed out that comparisons between vice-chancellors and individuals on low-end salaries were unhelpful, due to the hugely varied nature of the work different individuals do.

The Chancellor, George Osbourne has not yet approved the new proposals, but is currently considering the report.

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