University heads’ pay hits average of £272k, whilst student fees reach record highs

A study by the University and College Union suggested vice-chancellors at UK universities received average salary packages of £272,000 last year, up some £12,000 from 2014.

Vice-chancellors’ pay has come under scrutiny in recent years, with ministers in 2014 raising concerns about the “substantial upward drift” of salaries.

The UCU study based on Freedom of Information requests calculated university bosses received almost seven times more than the average wages of staff, with bosses receiving “inflation-busting” rises.

Royal Holloway’s principal Paul Layzell received a 3% (£8k) pay increase in 2014, bringing his total salary up to £265k, according to Royal Holloway’s financial report.

The research also suggests universities spent thousands more on hotels, flights and other expenses for vice-chancellors.

The average annual expenditure on flights was £8560.37 (50% of which were first or business class, while 21 leaders flew exclusively in these two classes), with an additional average of £2989.96 spent on hotels.

Simon Higman, Royal Holloway Registrar and College Secretary commented, ‘Higher Education has been radically changed by the introduction of student fees. In response Royal Holloway  continues to develop and extend a range of financial support for our students, such as bursaries and scholarships, hardship funds, travel and research awards. We are also making a £150 million investment in the student experience, in research and teaching facilities, careers support, accommodation and outdoor sports facilities based on the priorities identified by students.

When deciding the remuneration of our Principal the College Council is constantly aware that Royal Holloway competes for good staff with other universities on a global stage. We need to be able to appoint and retain world-leading academic staff who in turn make a vital contribution to the quality of student learning, to cutting edge research and the wider impact of UK HE institutions. Royal Holloway had a turnover of £160 million last year, provided employment for thousands of staff, offered excellent teaching to its students and made a contribution of hundreds of millions of pounds to our regional and national economy. The salary of the Principal reflects the challenges and responsibilities that come with the leadership of such a complex organisation.

Likewise the financial statements show that the Principal’s pay increase was actually less than 2% according to last year’s financial report.

Although, George Severs and Robert King, presidents of Royal Holloway’s Left Forum and Labour and Co-Operative Societies respectively, recently boycotted a drinks reception with Royal Holloway Principal Paul Layzell. Severs claimed that “the focus [of UK universities] is now on profitability, at the expense of lecturers’ pay and pensions and the quality of education afforded to students”.

“Whether you agree or not, taking a stand for student’s rights is a commendable act”.

 

Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the UCU, said: “The huge disparities in the levels of pay and pay rises at the top expose the arbitrary nature of senior pay in our universities.”

“The time has finally come for a frank and open discussion about pay and transparency in higher education”.

“While some continue to enjoy inflation-busting pay hikes and all the trimmings of first-class flights and luxury hotels, staff pay continues to be held down”.

“We will continue to campaign for a proper register of pay and perks at the top of our universities.”

With student admission fees at record highs, with income from home students having risen by £10 million, it is unsurprising that these figures have caused controversy.

Sonya Vieru, the vice-president of the National Union of Students, described the figures as obscene: “When university finances are being stretched to breaking point, and are over-reliant on ever rising tuition fees, it is almost immoral to see the generous expense policies afforded to already extremely well-paid vice-chancellors. We are told there are no funds for improving teaching and learning, for more staff, or for better mental health support for students, but there seems to be money for first-class flights for university senior management”.