It has been revealed that the Oxford University Vice Chancellor receives the highest salary of anyone with an equivalent position in the UK.
Andrew Hamilton receives £424,000 in salary, benefits, and pension contributions. His Cambridge counterpart receives £258,000, while the typical teaching academic can expect to be paid £42,263 on average.
The benefits that the Vice-Chancellor is able to claim follow the university guidelines for all staff, although part of his total remuneration includes travel expenses to return to the US a certain number of times a year. He is also given health insurance and access to a driver “for work transport only”, although this staff member is not solely for Hamilton’s use.
The Vice-Chancellor is required to live in a University-owned residence due to his position. The University gave some justification, commenting that the residence was used professionally, allowing Hamilton to entertain guests. They added that the property was fully owned by the university, so they incurred no costs from this arrangement other than for the property’s general upkeep.
The university stated there are no additional benefits other than these for the Vice-Chancellor, who does not receive bonuses. Cherwell last year reported that the Director of Oxford University Endowment Management Ltd received a salary of £600,000 in 2010, making her the highest paid university administrator in the country. However in 2011 no member of university staff received a pay packet that exceeded £520,000.
65 members of staff are on a salary that exceeds that of the Prime Minister whereas last year more than 70 University officials earned more than Cameron’s £142,500.
Vice Chancellors of the elite Russell Group universities saw their pay packets increase by 0.4% last year, although Oxford University said that this rise was reflected in the salary of all staff and was well below the rate of inflation. The rate of inflation was 4.8% in November 2011.
A statement from the Russell Group also gave a defence, stating, “In view of the ongoing financial challenges that universities are facing, many Vice-Chancellors agreed to only very modest increases, pay freezes, or even pay cuts in recent years. The average Russell Group Vice-Chancellor’s pay increase was lower than both UK inflation and the country’s average pay rise of 1.8%.”
However many feel that for the Vice-Chancellor’s salary to have increased in light of the imminent rise in tuition fees and budget cuts across the education sector is an insensitive misjudgement. The average pay of a UK CEO amounts to just over £122,000, less than a third of the Vice-Chancellor’s salary. A third year student regarded this situation as “ridiculous.”
However a university spokesperson responded, “According to most national league tables Oxford is the number one university in the UK. It makes a major contribution to the economic prosperity of the UK and the UK’s position in the world, as well as to tackling global challenges through its research.” He added, “Its research output is vast, it has an almost billion-pound-a-year turnover not including the colleges and OUP, and it has great institutional complexity. Its Vice-Chancellor’s salary reflects that.”
Dr Wendy Piatt, Director General of the Russell Group, also defended the pay of Vice-Chancellors, commenting, “Russell Group Vice-Chancellors lead complex multi-million pound organisations that succeed on a global stage. First-rate leadership is crucial if our universities are to continue to excel in such a challenging economic climate.” She added, “That Russell Group universities still punch well above their weight on the international stage despite being under-resourced in comparison with their international competitors is in large part testimony to the quality of their leadership.”
Comparisons have been made to the pay of the international counterparts of the Vice-Chancellor, since in the U.S. heads of institutions are frequently paid salaries that pass the $1 million (£650,000) mark. This has fuelled concerns that the rising pay-packets of university heads are an indication of the increasing commercialisation of the university sector.
Meanwhile Sally Hunt, the General Secretary of the University and College Trade Union said that the findings meant the government’s crackdown on excessive executive pay should extend to universities. She called for increased transparency and accountability for salary levels. Hunt told Cherwell, “Vice-Chancellors improved pay and perks are bound to raise eyebrows, especially when university staff have taken a real-terms pay cut of 7% since 2009. Unless there is proper scrutiny of vice chancellors’ pay and perks then stories of unaccountable increases will continue to embarrass the sector at a time when it is suffering punitive financial cuts.”
The main political parties are all vying to lead calls for a crackdown on executive pay, with David Cameron saying it made “people’s blood boil.” In light of this, many are calling for the pay of Vice Chancellors to be subject to similar scrutiny, with Ms. Hunt calling for employees and students of universities to be included on the remuneration boards that decide the pay of the Vice-Chancellor.
The Vice-Chancellor’s pay is currently decided by an Independent Remuneration Council which includes academics as well as experts from outside the sector.