Last night’s Dispatches helped shine a light on the murky world of vice-chancellors’ pay and benefits, as well as providing a timely reminder on the dangers of commercialising higher education.
Sally Hunt is the general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU)
Last night’s Dispatches (Cashing in on Degrees) helped shine a light on the murky world of vice-chancellors’ pay and benefits, as well as providing a timely reminder on the dangers of commercialising higher education.
UCU has long argued for greater transparency over vice-chancellors’ pay and perks, which have been a considerable embarrassment to the sector.
I have nothing against people being paid well for doing a good job but the current culture of hiding behind remuneration committees, when those committees are not required to publicly explain their reasoning, needs to change.
Brian Canton, vice chancellor at the University of York, came in for particular scrutiny after it was revealed that he gets his administration office to field calls from people hiring his £1,100 per week holiday home in France, and that he claimed £10,000 in expenses for chauffeur-driven cars in the past year.
He was by no means alone in being singled out. Dispatches found that the average earnings of a university vice-chancellor amount to around £254,000, with many enjoying perks and privileges such as rent-free homes.
Professor Andrew Hamilton, vice-chancellor at the University of Oxford, despite being the highest paid vice-chancellor in the country with a salary of more than £400,000 a year, has access to a rent-free house in north Oxford, believed to be worth £3.5m.
These are just a few headline-grabbing examples of excess, at a time when higher education is facing huge cuts to its funding, and students are being asked to the foot the bill for a huge rise in fees.
Last night’s programme came just a month after Will Hutton’s review of public sector pay recommended that an independent committee should set bosses’ pay, and include clear targets they must meet to receive the full package.
An interim report published in December revealed that universities had the highest pay differential between the top and bottom earners across the entire public sector. On average, vice chancellors earned 15.35 times the salary of staff at the bottom of the pay spine. In Russell Group universities, the ratio rose to 19:1.
Many of the vice-chancellors featured in last night’s programme are the same people who have been working to keep down staff pay and reduce pension benefits. It is time they were held to greater account.
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