Plans to di­vulge de­tails of staff paid £150K+ get thumbs down from Rus­sell Group

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - Jack.grove@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

Plans to force English uni­ver­si­ties to pub­lish the salary de­tails of all staff earn­ing more than £150,000 have been crit­i­cised as “dis­pro­por­tion­ate” and po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing by lead­ing in­sti­tu­tions.

While the new Of­fice for Stu­dents has pledged to tackle the “ex­ces­sive pay of vice-chan­cel­lors”, its new pro­pos­als go much fur­ther on the is­sue by in­sist­ing that in­sti­tu­tions pub­lish the job de­scrip­tions of all staff earn­ing more than £150,000 a year. Uni­ver­si­ties must also dis­close “full de­tails of the re­mu­ner­a­tion pack­ages of those staff, in­clud­ing bonuses and pen­sion con­tri­bu­tions” and pro­vide a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of this pay that ref­er­ences “per­for­mance against out­come mea­sures”.

Un­der the plans, pub­lished in the OFS’ con­sul­ta­tion on its new reg­u­la­tory frame­work, re­leas­ing th­ese de­tails would be an “on­go­ing con­di­tion of regis­tra­tion” to the new higher ed­u­ca­tion reg­u­la­tor.

The pro­posed new re­quire­ment is likely to oblige uni­ver­si­ties to re­port de­tails of hun­dreds of aca­demics and high-earn­ing ad­min­is­tra­tors, in ad­di­tion to vicechan­cel­lors.

In its re­sponse to the OFS con­sul­ta­tion, the Rus­sell Group, which rep­re­sents 24 re­search-in­ten­sive uni­ver­si­ties, says that “around three­quar­ters of those paid over £150,000 are on aca­demic con­tracts (in­clud­ing clin­i­cal aca­demics where the pay scales are set by the NHS)”.

De­scrib­ing the plans as “dis­pro­por­tion­ate”, the Rus­sell Group says that they “risk un­der­min­ing the abil­ity of in­sti­tu­tions to com­pete in an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket for aca­demic and pro­fes­sional ser­vices tal­ent”.

“It would be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive to UK higher ed­u­ca­tion and re­search to make the re­ward ar­range­ments of top-per­form­ing aca­demics and man­agers known to com­peti­tors,” it adds.

The Rus­sell Group has urged the OFS to al­low uni­ver­si­ties to con­tinue with cur­rent ar­range­ments un­der which they sign up to the Com­mit­tee of Univer­sity Chairs’ vol­un­tary code on pay, which is cur­rently un­der re­view.

The Univer­sity of Birm­ing­ham also op­poses the OFS plans, de­scrib­ing the pro­posed re­quire­ment as “very oner­ous” in its con­sul­ta­tion re­sponse.

“We sup­port the need for greater trans­parency in se­nior staff re­mu­ner­a­tion but have con­cerns about the reg­u­la­tory bur­den that will be im­posed by [th­ese] de­tailed re­quire­ments,” says the univer­sity, which, ac­cord­ing to its an­nual ac­counts, paid 48 in­di­vid­u­als more than £150,000 in 2016-17.

The re­quire­ment is also likely to lead to greater trans­parency in the rare cases in which some uni­ver­si­ties’ staff are paid more than the vice-chan­cel­lor.

At the Univer­sity of Cam­bridge, four staff mem­bers were paid more than the £355,000 salary earned by Sir Leszek Bo­rysiewicz in 2016-17, with the high­est-paid earn­ing be­tween £640,000 and £650,000, univer­sity ac­counts state. Three mem­bers at the Univer­sity of Ox­ford earned more than Louise Richard­son, its vice-chan­cel­lor, whose salary was £366,000 that year, with the high­est-paid earn­ing be­tween £880,000 and £890,000.

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Hid­den tal­ents plans to pub­lish de­tails of high earn­ers “risk un­der­min­ing the abil­ity of in­sti­tu­tions to com­pete in an in­ter­na­tional mar­ket for aca­demic and pro­fes­sional ser­vices tal­ent”

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