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Vice-Chancellors have already earned a year’s tuition fees in the first 9 days of 2019


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Widespread criticism of university vice-chancellors' pay led to the introduction of new frameworks where universities have to justify excessive pay packages.

The new rules were introduced in September 2018, after it emerged that vice-chancellors sat in committee meetings which decided their pay. 

However, Times Higher Education figures released in December 2018 show that Russell Group vice-chancellors' salaries have actually increased since then. The average salary for a Russell Group vice-chancellor was just over £355,000. This marks a 1.8% increase since 2017, on top of a 3.9% increase on the previous year. 

Keith Burnett at the University of Sheffield was the highest paid Russell Group vice-chancellor in 2018, earning £448,519.

University of Birmingham's David Eastwood came second with £444,000, followed by Christopher Snowden at the University of Southampton with a salary of £427,000.

Those pushing for the 2018 guidelines included universities minister Jo Johnson, who called on universities to limit the pay of senior management roles over a year ago, former Labour cabinet minister Andrew Adonis, and The University of Buckingham vice-chancellor Anthony Seldon. 

Mr Seldon told The Guardian: “at a time when staff salaries were barely increasing it was not good to let vice-chancellor and top salaries increase so much and without a clear explanation as to why.” 

Since then, universities have had to justify the salaries of their senior staff. This pressure seems only to have prompted a reduction in the highest wages reported in 2016-17.

The highest paid vice-chancellors in 2017-18 were paid considerably less than the highest-paid for the 2016-17 financial year. 

Christina Slade at Bath Spa University made headlines in 2017 when she was paid over £800,000 in her final year as vice-chancellor before stepping down.

The University of Bath’s vice-chancellor Glynis Breakwell also sparked national debate for being the highest paid UK university vice-chancellor (excluding ‘leaving bonuses’) in 2018.

Slade is due to be replaced this April by Professor Ian White who will earn £202,000 a year less than Breakwell did.

However, headlines this week echoed a similar story to Slade’s. Exeter University’s Sir Steve Smiths’ bumper annual pay of £830,000 was exposed as being the highest ever payout in the university sector. 

When determining senior salaries, Bath Spa's Remuneration Committee considered the pay of other universities’ Vice-Chancellors as ‘benchmark information’.

This indicates that the issue of Vice-Chancellors' pay is likely to change only through united agreement amongst universities, or as it stands now, not at all.

Image credit: Tim Pesteridge 

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