Edinburgh university offers new Vice Chancellor a staggering £410k – as lecturers fight 40% cut to pensions

Tactless pay hike comes as staff at 61 universities, including Edinburgh, prepare to strike over pensions.

Edinburgh University has catapulted its new Vice Chancellor on to the list of best paid UK university bosses with a 33% salary hike, in a move unions say has ‘made a mockery’ of attempts to curb excessive pay packages for fat cat principals.

Vice Chancellors’ huge pay checks been under fire recently, as student fees shoot up and pay, contracts and benefits for lecturers are eroded way.

But Edinburgh University appears to have missed the memo, offering new hire Professor Peter Mathieson a welcome package worth £410,000 — along with a five-bedroom grace-and-favour home in the city centre.

To make matters worse, news of his pay comes as staff at 61 universities, including Edinburgh, prepare to walk out in a row over pensions

The University and College Union (UCU) described the figures as extraordinary under the circumstances.

Professor Peter Mathieson will be paid a basic salary of £342,000, which is £85,000 more than predecessor Sir Timothy O’Shea. Mathieson will also receive £42,000 in lieu of pension contributions and relocation costs of £26,000, taking his package up to £410,000.

The union said the news exposed just how out of touch those in charge of universities were and said higher education faced a crisis of leadership.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said:

“Edinburgh must have looked at months of terrible headlines for higher education about pay and perks and considered the growing unrest about efforts to slash staff pensions. They have considered all this and decided a massive salary hike, a welcome package over £400,000 and a five-bed central Edinburgh home is the best response. It is quite incredible.”

Two-thirds of Vice Chancellors sit on the board which sets their pay. In December a BMG poll for the UCU lecturers union and Left Foot Forward found that 79% of those with a view oppose this practice.

Last autumn, a row erupted over an £800,000 payout to the departing Vice Chancellor at Bath Spa University, and a bungled resignation at the University of Bath.

Hunt said:

“There is a real crisis of leadership in our universities at the moment and things will come to a head when staff, who have been let down time and again by their leaders, walk out at 61 universities in the row over pensions. I implore vice-chancellors to show some leadership and to talk to us to resolve the dispute.

“Universities have promised time and again to get to grip with excessive senior pay and perks, yet this latest example shows they have no intention of doing so. Politicians can talk all they like about tougher sanctions to deal with the problem, but it looks like universities will continue to ignore them.”

In 2015/16, the average total remuneration package (including salary, benefits, employer pension contributions and bonuses) for vice-chancellors was £277,834 – a rise of 2% on the average for the previous year (2014/15) of £272,432.  

UCU expects to publish its report looking into senior pay and perks on Monday 26 February.

Charlotte England is a freelance journalist and writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter.

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One Response to “Edinburgh university offers new Vice Chancellor a staggering £410k – as lecturers fight 40% cut to pensions”

  1. William

    This kind of salary indicates to me that the people who receive it are more interested in the money than the work which at the top of education is very worrying.
    It also shows elitism and a lack of respect for all staff below them.
    The word “Thatcher” comes to mind again.

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