Ox­ford dons hit out at VC in pay row

The Sunday Telegraph - - News - By Camilla Turner ED­U­CA­TION EDITOR

OX­FORD Uni­ver­sity’s vice-chan­cel­lor is at the cen­tre of a back­lash from aca­demic col­leagues for mak­ing com­ments that ap­pear to have reignited the con­tro­versy over soar­ing salaries.

Prof Louise Richard­son waded into the de­bate about vice-chan­cel­lor pay this week, ac­cus­ing politi­cians of “men­da­cious” be­hav­iour and de­fend­ing the salaries, say­ing uni­ver­sity bosses were poorly paid when com­pared with foot­ballers and bankers.

An­nounc­ing a fresh crack­down on the salaries of uni­ver­sity chiefs, Jo John­son, the uni­ver­si­ties min­is­ter, sug­gested she should not be in her job if she wanted to be paid like a foot­baller.

Ox­ford dons also rounded on her, calling her com­ments “as­ton­ish­ing”, and ask­ing “why on earth” she would want to weigh in on the de­bate.

“There is an ir­ri­ta­tion about this silly com­par­i­son with foot­ballers and bankers,” a se­nior Ox­ford aca­demic told The Sun­day Tele­graph.

“It is just as­ton­ish­ing that to some ex­tent [the row] was dy­ing down and then she waded in. Calling politi­cians tawdry and men­da­cious has asked for a re­ac­tion.” The aca­demic said the com- ments were an “own goal” which only served to reignite the de­bate.

Three days after Prof Richard­son’s com­ments, Mr John­son un­veiled a se­ries of mea­sures to curb pay hikes, in­clud­ing pub­lish­ing the num­ber of staff who earn over £100,000 a year.

He said that the Of­fice for Stu­dents, a new reg­u­la­tor, would fine in­sti­tu­tions that fail to give “clear jus­ti­fi­ca­tion” for pay­ing vice-chan­cel­lors £150,000 or more. There is grow­ing con­cern about the largesse of uni­ver­si­ties where vice chan­cel­lors typ­i­cally en­joy six-fig­ure pack­ages with grace and favour homes and en­hanced pen­sions.

Mr John­son ap­peared to hit back at Prof Richard­son, telling an au­di­ence of uni­ver­sity lead­ers: “I have heard in re­cent days a prom­i­nent VC not­ing that she was paid less than foot­ballers or bankers. If uni­ver­sity man­agers want those kinds of wages, I guess they’re not in the right busi­ness.”

The Ox­ford aca­demic who spoke to The Sun­day Tele­graph said her com­ments had been de­rided in Ox­ford, with col­leagues ask­ing: “Why on earth did she say that? Is it wise to call politi­cians tawdry?” He said her com­ments had be­gun to com­pound a view that Prof Richard­son was a “gaff prone VC”.

On Mon­day Prof Richard­son ac­cused politi­cians of dam­ag­ing the UK uni­ver­sity sec­tor by mak­ing “spu­ri­ous” links be­tween the in­crease in fees and vice chan­cel­lor pay. She told the Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion’s World Aca­demic Sum­mit: “I think it’s com­pletely men­da­cious by politi­cians to suggest that vice-chan­cel­lors have used the £9,000 fee to en­hance their own salaries.”

She also said: “My own salary is £350,000. That’s a very high salary com­pared to our aca­demics who I think are … very lowly paid. Com­pared to a foot­baller, it looks dif­fer­ent; com­pared to a banker it looks very dif­fer­ent.”

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