CALLS for an “urgent government intervention” into pay inequality at universities grew last night as it emerged that half of fat-cat vice-chancellors sit on committees determining their own pay.
Of 143 institutions that responded to Freedom of Information requests, 67 (47 per cent) of them said their vice-chancellor was a member of the university’s remuneration committee.
The revelation comes amid growing concerns over spiralling salary rises for university chiefs – and strike action by lecturers who face their pensions being slashed.
Of those who said their leader was not a member of the pay committee, just seven said the vice-chancellor was not allowed to attend its meetings. One university claimed not to have a remuneration committee.
University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Sally Hunt said: “It is quite staggering that just seven universities say their vice-chancellor was neither a member of the committee that sets their pay, nor allowed to attend the meetings.
“For too long universities have got away with painting remuneration committees as independent bodies to deflect attention over senior pay.
“The time has come for proper transparency of senior pay and perks in our universities and that starts with full disclosure of the shadowy remuneration committee.”
A spokesman for vice-chancellors’ group Universities UK said: “It is right to expect that the process for determining senior university staff pay is rigorous and transparent.
“The Committee of University Chairs’ (CUC’s) new remuneration code, currently being consulted upon, will provide important guidance for university remuneration committees to ensure senior pay decisions are fair, accountable and justified, while recognising that competitive pay is necessary to attract first-rate leaders.”
In the Morning Star earlier this month, Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle called for an “immediate intervention to cut vice-chancellors’ pay” to no more than 10 times that of the lowest paid worker at their institution.
Under his proposal, the savings would be redistributed to workers’ pensions.
Last night, Labour Students vice-chair Lara McNeill said it was time for ministers to take responsibility.
“It beggars belief that the same vice-chancellors slashing the pensions of rank-and-file staff are signing off their own bloated pay packets,” she said.
“I’m backing calls for an urgent government intervention to end the scandal of higher education once and for all.
“It’s high time our universities serve those who actually contribute to them – their students and staff – and not those who simply see them as an opportunity for personal enrichment.”
Pay for university chiefs has risen significantly in recent years. In 2015/16 the typical salary of a vice-chancellor was 6.4 times that of the average university worker.
Average pay last year including pensions and benefits was more than £280,000.
Under new proposals, universities will have to publish the pay of anyone earning more than £100,000 and give an explanation if someone is earning more than the Prime Minister.
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