Univer­sity bosses in the money

Sunday Times - - Front Page - By PREGA GOVEN­DER

● Ex­ec­u­tives in charge of lo­cal uni­ver­si­ties are taking home top-notch pay cheques.

For ex­am­ple, for­mer Univer­sity of Jo­han­nes­burg (UJ) vice-chan­cel­lor Ihron Rens­burg re­ceived R17.6m last year, the fi­nal year of his 12-year ten­ure. Of this, R13.7m was in re­ten­tion in­cen­tives ac­cu­mu­lated over 10 years — which works out to an aver­age an­nual in­cen­tive of R1.3m.

Of the 19 uni­ver­si­ties that have dis­closed the 2017 salaries of their vice-chan­cel­lors, Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity paid the most — Wim de Vil­liers re ce iv edR4.5m, which in­cludes a R 330,000 bonus. Close be­hind was for­mer Univer­sity of Venda head Peter Mbati, who pock­eted R4.2m.

SA has 26 pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties. Wal­ter Sisulu Univer­sity and Nel­son Man­dela Univer­sity de­clined to dis­close vice-chan­cel­lors’ salaries, while the Vaal Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Univer­sity of Zu­l­u­land, Univer­sity of the Free State, Cen­tral Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy and the Univer­sity of Mpumalanga did not re­spond to me­dia queries.

The salaries and perks paid out to some vice-chan­cel­lors — the aca­demic world’s equiv­a­lent of CEOs — have sparked calls for a probe by the depart­ment of higher ed­u­ca­tion.

Tight­en­ing their belts

In other ar­eas, uni­ver­si­ties are tight­en­ing their belts — ac­cord­ing to Stats SA, higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions cut their cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture by 5.4% last year.

Last year UJ paid Rens­burg’s suc­ces­sor, Tshilidzi Mar­wala, R5m in his role as one of Rens­burg’s deputies and later vice-chan­cel­lor-des­ig­nate .This in­cluded a R 695,429 bonus and a R1.4m re­ten­tion in­cen­tive that was de­ferred for three years.

Jairam Reddy, a for­mer chair of the Dur- ban Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy coun­cil, said higher ed­u­ca­tion min­is­ter Naledi Pan­dor should ask univer­sity coun­cils to reg­u­late the salaries of vice-chan­cel­lors.

“If they fail to bring about reg­u­la­tion them­selves, then the govern­ment may have to in­ter­vene be­cause bridg­ing the in­equal­ity gap in this coun­try over­rides ev­ery­thing else,” said Reddy, a for­mer vice-chan­cel­lor of the then Univer­sity of Dur­ban-Westville.

He said those ap­pointed to high posts were hired on the ba­sis of their qual­i­fi­ca­tions, ex­pe­ri­ence and com­mit­ment.

“Once you are com­mit­ted, you are ex­pected to give 100% of your time and ser­vice. There can be no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for bonuses be­cause once you start award­ing bonuses at the top level, ev­ery­body in the univer­sity should get it and that’s not pos­si­ble.”

One vice-chan­cel­lor, who asked not to be iden­ti­fied, ac­knowl­edged some of his peers were re­ceiv­ing ex­or­bi­tant salaries and perks.

“There should be a uni­form salary struc­ture for all vice-chan­cel­lors,” he said, call­ing Rens­burg’s R17m pay­out “ridicu­lous”.

UJ spokesper­son Herman Ester­huizen de­fended Rens­burg’s pay­out, say­ing the coun­cil had ap­proved a com­pen­sa­tion scheme for ex­cep­tional per­form­ers un­der which pay­ment was de­ferred for three to 10 years.

“Given that the pay­ments were spread over 10 years, it is not cor­rect to sug­gest th­ese amounts are extremely excessive, let alone ex­treme.”

Ester­huizen said that in its de­lib­er­a­tions on pay the coun­cil had recog­nised that the univer­sity, cre­ated in 2005 by merg­ing three sep­a­rate in­sti­tu­tions, had fol­lowed an “up­ward aca­demic and re­search tra­jec­tory”.

The Sun­day Times was un­able to reach Rens­burg this week.

Ge­orge Steyn, chair of the coun­cil of Stel­len­bosch Univer­sity, said De Vil­liers’s to­tal pack­age was de­ter­mined by, among other things, his record on strat­egy im­ple­men­ta­tion, the univer­sity’s re­search and learn­ing achieve­ments, and its long-term fi­nan­cial sus­tain­abil­ity.

“At Stel­len­bosch, the vice-chan­cel­lor plays a piv­otal role as fundraiser,” Steyn said.

He said the size of the bonus awarded to De Vil­liers was de­ter­mined an­nu­ally af­ter a com­pre­hen­sive per­for­mance as­sess­ment by the coun­cil’s re­mu­ner­a­tion coun­cil.

Mbati re­ferred queries about his re­mu­ner­a­tion to the Univer­sity of Venda, which did not re­spond.

Ahmed Bawa, the CEO of Uni­ver­si­ties SA, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that rep­re­sents SA’s uni­ver­si­ties, said the turnover of vice-chan­cel­lors was “ex­tra­or­di­nary”, with 13 new heads be­ing ap­pointed in the 18 months up to June this year. “This is an in­di­ca­tion of the kind of de­tail and in­for­ma­tion that coun­cils take into ac­count when set­ting salaries,” he said.

Lunga Ngqen­gelele, spokesper­son for the depart­ment of higher ed­u­ca­tion, said the depart­ment had no mech­a­nism to reg­u­late ex­ec­u­tive pay at pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties.

He said the depart­ment was ex­am­in­ing the 2017 an­nual re­ports and would, where nec­es­sary, re­quest in­sti­tu­tions to pro­vide fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about ex­ec­u­tive pay­ments that ap­peared un­usual or excessive.

If [uni­ver­si­ties] fail to bring about reg­u­la­tion them­selves, then the govern­ment may have to in­ter­vene

Jairam Reddy For­mer chair of the coun­cil of the Dur­ban Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy

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