Top-level ex­its to ‘bring pay curbs’

Slew of v-c va­can­cies of­fers uni­ver­si­ties chance to down­grade salaries, say ex­perts. Anna McKie writes

THE (Times Higher Education) - - NEWS - Anna.mckie@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

UK uni­ver­sity re­mu­ner­a­tion com­mit­tees face their first big test af­ter the furore over vice-chan­cel­lors’ pay as a slew of top-level va­can­cies puts pres­sure on boards to rein in salaries.

Six in­sti­tu­tional heads have an­nounced in re­cent weeks that they are step­ping down, in­clud­ing Iain Martin from Anglia Ruskin Uni­ver­sity; the Uni­ver­sity of Brad­ford’s Brian Can­tor; Patrick Loughrey, war­den of Gold­smiths, Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don; and Liver­pool John Moores Uni­ver­sity’s Nigel Weather­ill.

Also leav­ing is Sir Christo­pher Snow­den, vice-chan­cel­lor of the Uni­ver­sity of Southamp­ton, who will re­tire in spring 2019 and was one of the UK’s high­est-paid higher ed­u­ca­tion lead­ers, on a pack­age worth £433,000 in 2016-17.

All six in­sti­tu­tions will come un­der pres­sure to fol­low the ap­proach adopted by the Uni­ver­sity of Bath when it ap­pointed Ian White its new vice-chan­cel­lor last month, fol­low­ing the re­tire­ment of Dame Gly­nis Break­well. Pro­fes­sor White, cur­rently a deputy v-c at the Uni­ver­sity of Cam­bridge, will start next April on a salary that is strik­ingly close to the UK sec­tor av­er­age ac­cord­ing to Times Higher Ed­u­ca­tion’s lat­est sur­vey, with ba­sic pay of £266,000 plus £37,000 in lieu of pen­sion con­tri­bu­tions.

In con­trast, Dame Gly­nis’ £468,000 pack­age made her the UK’s high­est-paid v-c, and she was forced to step down af­ter be­com­ing the fo­cus of wide­spread crit­i­cism of lev­els of ex­ec­u­tive pay in higher ed­u­ca­tion.

Nick Hill­man, di­rec­tor of the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute, said that “the most likely out­come of the re­cent furore was al­ways a re­cal­i­bra­tion of salaries when new ap­point­ments oc­cur, rather than big cuts for those al­ready in post”.

“We have al­ready seen that at Bath and I sus­pect we will see it at other places too,” he said. “In par­tic­u­lar, we will see more clus­ter­ing around the av­er­age re­mu­ner­a­tion for vice-chan­cel­lors.”

Andy West­wood, vice-dean for so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity at the Uni­ver­sity of Manch­ester, agreed that “for some uni­ver­si­ties, where the de­part­ing vice-chan­cel­lor has been there for a while and been sub­ject to pay hikes, it will make sense to lower the pay of­fer­ing and show that the in­sti­tu­tion is lis­ten­ing to crit­ics”.

“How­ever, there will be oth­ers – par­tic­u­larly ones where the leader is leav­ing be­cause of per­for­mancere­lated is­sues – where the board will say ‘we know that there is a furore over v-c pay, but we need some­one to work mir­a­cles, and we’re pre­pared to take that flak if they can do that’,” Pro­fes­sor West­wood said.

He added: “It is ironic that the tight­en­ing pres­sures around stu­dent re­cruit­ment and other strate­gic is­sues [driven by gov­ern­ment pol­icy] may lead some uni­ver­si­ties to gam­ble on con­tin­u­ing high pay lev­els de­spite the clam­our to re­duce them.”

Mod­est means uni­ver­si­ties may take the op­por­tu­nity to rein in salaries

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