Bath gov­er­nance un­der scru­tiny

Univer­sity’s re­mu­ner­a­tion com­mit­tee crit­i­cised over ‘lack of trans­parency’. John Morgan re­ports

THE (Times Higher Education) - - NEWS - John.morgan@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­

One of the mem­bers of the Univer­sity of Bath’s re­mu­ner­a­tion com­mit­tee, which de­cides se­nior pay at the in­sti­tu­tion, for­merly led a con­struc­tion com­pany that has won con­tracts worth £64 mil­lion from the univer­sity.

The Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Funding Coun­cil for Eng­land is in­ves­ti­gat­ing gov­er­nance at Bath, fol­low­ing a com­plaint by Labour peer Lord Ado­nis about what he sees as fail­ures in set­ting the pay of vicechan­cel­lor Dame Gly­nis Break­well.

Dame Gly­nis re­ceived an 11 per cent rise in 2015-16 that took her salary to £451,000 and made her the UK’s high­est-paid vice-chan­cel­lor, as Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion revealed.

Dame Gly­nis is a mem­ber of the five-strong re­mu­ner­a­tion com­mit­tee that sets pay awards for the vicechan­cel­lor, the deputy vice-chan­cel­lor, the pro vice-chan­cel­lors, the deans, the univer­sity sec­re­tary, the direc­tor of fi­nance and the direc­tor of es­tates. How­ever, she ceases to be a mem­ber of the com­mit­tee when her own pay is un­der dis­cus­sion and with­draws from meetings.

Of the four other mem­bers, one is John Stan­ion, who an­nounced in Oc­to­ber 2014 that he was re­tir­ing as chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Vinci Con­struc­tion UK, af­ter 22 years with the firm.

Mr Stan­ion joined Bath’s gov­ern­ing coun­cil in 2012, and he joined the re­mu­ner­a­tion com­mit­tee in Oc­to­ber 2015.

In Oc­to­ber 2012, it was an­nounced that Bath had signed a £16 mil­lion build­ing con­tract with Vinci. In Novem­ber 2014, Bath ap­pointed Vinci to build a £20 mil­lion teach­ing and re­search build­ing, and an­other £27.5 mil­lion con­tract be­tween the two was an­nounced in March 2017.

There is no sug­ges­tion of any wrong­do­ing by any party. Mr Stan­ion joined the re­mu­ner­a­tion com­mit­tee af­ter Dame Gly­nis’ 2015-16 pay pack­age would have been de­cided, and his role is not thought to be a sub­ject of the He­fce in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But some at Bath ques­tion whether the univer­sity could have been more alert to any pos­si­bil­ity that per­cep­tions of any po­ten­tial con­flict of in­ter­est could arise.

The fo­cus of the He­fce in­ves­ti­ga­tion is thought to in­clude, but to not be limited to, the univer­sity court meet­ing of 23 Fe­bru­ary at which a mo­tion was pro­posed to ex­press con­cern to coun­cil “at the lack of trans­parency and ac­count­abil­ity of the re­mu­ner­a­tion com­mit­tee and the de­ci­sions the re­mu­ner­a­tion com­mit­tee has made in the past year”.

The mo­tion was de­feated by 33 votes to 30. Joe Ray­ment, a for­mer Bath mem­ber of staff who pro­posed the mo­tion, has writ­ten to He­fce claim­ing that those vot­ing in­cluded Dame Gly­nis and “at least five oth­ers whose pay is set by the re­mu­ner­a­tion com­mit­tee, and two other mem­bers of the re­mu­ner­a­tion com­mit­tee. The re­sult of that vote is there­fore ques­tion­able.”

Ac­cord­ing to some at the univer­sity, there are no stand­ing or­ders for the court, which would set out a process for deal­ing with po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est.

Mr Ray­ment says in his let­ter to He­fce that “the gov­er­nance struc­tures no longer hold the ex­ec­u­tive to ac­count as they should, but in­stead have be­come a fortress – keep­ing all scru­tiny and ac­count­abil­ity at bay”.

A Bath spokesman said: “We are pro­vid­ing He­fce with all the in­for­ma­tion they have re­quested, in­clud­ing in re­la­tion to meetings of univer­sity court.”

In the open de­ci­sions will be stud­ied

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