Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, has today announced his intention to reduce his salary from £424,000 to £50,000 a year. His announcement follows a social media campaign from Oxford students highlighting the disparity between his wage and that of the lowest-paid staff at the University.
In a statement released today, Hamilton praised the hard work and dedication of all the University’s staff, and acknowledged that the extent of disparity in pay between certain staff members was not actually justified by their differing job roles. “It turns out that, on reflection, my job isn’t 30 times harder than anyone else’s, so I’ve come to the conclusion that I probably don’t deserve 30 times the pay-package,” he said.
“Furthermore, it’s getting harder and harder, as my salary gets bigger and bigger, to maintain that the University’s finances are in a terrible predicament, and that the only way to rescue them is to raise tuition fees to £16,000. Hopefully now that I’ve taken a pay-cut my campaigning in that area will seem a little less monstrously hypocritical.”
When asked what inspired this move, Hamilton credited pressure from the student campaign against his pay-package, but attributed his ultimate decision to actually act on this pressure to an anonymous undergraduate who attended one of his termly breakfasts. “I set these breakfast meetings up,” said Hamilton, “to take the pulse of the ordinary undergraduate student. One such ordinary student pointed out that I earned over 20 times what his mother, a primary school teacher, earns, and that whilst her day involved seven hours in the classroom and an evening of marking homework, mine involved breakfast, coffee with the master of Christ Church, lunch with a benefactor of the University, afternoon tea with an old school friend, and formal hall at St. John’s. Of course, this is a long and gruelling day by any standards, but I could see his point that it was not quite 20 times as gruelling as his mother’s work day.”
“Another student made the interesting point that the Prime Minister earns only £142,0000 – nearly three time less than the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford – and that holding ultimate responsibility for the welfare of British citizens versus a handful of students should be reflected to a certain extent by your pay-packet. From that moment onward I resolved to take a realistic look at my salary and how I could really show that I am one of you, that I am one of the people. Leszek Borysiewicz, the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, or ‘the dirty Tabs’ as I’ve heard them affectionately called by students, still earns in the ball park of £334,000, so I think it shows Oxford’s progressive nature that I will be making changes first.”
The University confirmed to The OxStew today that the £375,000 a year that would have gone on Mr. Hamilton’s salary is to be put in a hardship fund for staff and students. The fund, to be named ‘The Hamilton Big Thank You Fund’, will give small emergency grants to anyone within the University suffering from unexpected financial hardship. “Although this fund will make only a small difference to people’s lives,” Hamilton acknowledged, “I think it adds something to the symbolic gesture that I’m making. I care about the University as a beacon of learning and education, not as a money-making machine and I want my salary to reflect that.”
When asked if he had considered making the University of Oxford an accredited Living Wage employer, thus perhaps alleviating the need for such hardship funds, the Vice-Chancellor declined to comment.