Are university heads paid too much?

According to a survey from UCU lecturers’ union top earners among university vice-chancellors received between £390,000 and £625,000, based on total benefits, and the biggest earner of 2013-2014 was Nottingham Trent University’s head, Neil Gorman, who received £623,000. A statement from the board of governors of Nottingham Trent University said that Gormon’s wage was reflective of a 2% pay increase during his last year as vice-chancellor. However, he also received “additional monies” which were accrued over 5 years. The survey also showed how university heads received increases in benefits and wage at a time when lecturers were campaigning over their pay.

University heads expenses are also under scrutiny with vice-chancellors claiming up to £2,200 per month on hotel bills. The head of Glasgow Caledonian University claimed £27,271 worth of hotel bills. A spokeswoman for the university said the expenses reflect “relationship-building for flagship developments and for graduation ceremonies” at branches overseas in Oman, South Africa and Bangladesh.

London School of Economics vice-chancellor claimed nearly £60,000 in flights. A spokesman for the institution stated “A key part of the director’s role at LSE is to maintain the array of international relationships and establish new links with universities, businesses and non-governmental organisations around the world”.

The UCU criticised 24 out of the 155 universities who failed to respond to Freedom of Information requests and failed  to reveal details of senior pay.

Sally Hunt, UCU leader told BBC News that the lack of “accountability surrounding senior pay and perks is a national scandal”, and that ” this is happening in public institutions which are largely funded by the taxpayer and students.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable has warned that university income should be spent “improving student experience and strengthening the UK world-class reputation in education and research… and at a time when most university staff are seeing modest wage increases, if any at all, news of these large pay rises for university bosses will be hard to swallow. It would be wise for the sector to think twice before increasing vice-chancellors’ salaries.”

It was suggested last week that universities could be exempted from Freedom of Information requests and legislation, which would in turn allow university heads to receive pay increases and big bonuses without the public knowing this information. Therefore, all university heads wage will be unknown and nothing can be done to control it.