‘Universities see us As moneybags’
UNIVERSITIES cannot keep giving senior academics “ostentatious pay, pensions and perks” while students are shelling out £9,250 a year for a watered-down experience, campaigners said last night.
Students said they felt like they were “nothing but moneybags for universities” as their calls for help grew.
The average pay among Russell Group university leaders – an association including the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London and the London School of Economics – was £386,000 per year last year, a dip of 2.6 per cent.
Imperial College London’s Alice Gast, who is the UK’s best-paid university boss, received more than £500,000.At least 46 vice-chancellors still had the same generous salaries in the 2019/20 financial year as they had the year before.
The Daily Express is campaigning for a reduction in tuition fees; rent rebates for students unable to live in university accommodation; and greater use of hardship funds.
Campaigners said the sky-high salaries for university chiefs are a slap in the face for students already struggling to make ends meet with “inadequate maintenance loans and all-time high tuition fees”.
Third-year student Anastasia Christodoulou, 20, said: “Students are being viewed as nothing but moneybags for universities, and it is unfair that they are the ones who have to feel the repercussions.
“I think it’s such an unjustifiable amount of money.
“I’m pretty sure the UEA vicechancellor earns £271,000, which is nearly twice the salary of the Prime Minister. It’s especially ridiculous that UEA has both staff and students that are struggling financially, and a student’s union that has also been struggling.”
Initially, many vice-chancellors took pay cuts as the virus ripped through the country returned to full pay.
Some continued to receive huge rises despite the pandemic restricting the vast majority of face-to-face learning.
Critics branded the “eyewatering sums” a “source of shame” for the university sector.
Analysis of 2018/19 wages showed Imperial College London’s
Alice Gast got £554,000. Nine other vice-chancellors earned more than £400,000 while 22 others pocketed in excess of £300,000. Other staff left their roles with extra payments of almost £200,000 last year.
Despite the huge sums, some universities have warned that the coronavirus crisis will lead to them going bust, with 13 facing “a very real prospect” of insolvency.
Joe Ventre, digital campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, told the Daily Express: “Some vice-chancellors enjoy chauffeurdriven luxury limos – with hundreds of thousands spent on purchasing, maintaining or fuelling the Mercedes and Jaguars.
“Universities simply cannot continue to behave like it’s business as usual when it comes to ostentatious pay, pensions and perks.”
Tom Allingham, of Save the Student financial advice group, said: “Students are paying the full amount for a compromised experi
ence, while many vice-chancellors are still earning a full salary and some have seen their pay increase.
“While their earnings are small fry compared to the total fees paid each year, it does feel like a bit of a slap in the face to students who were already hamstrung by inadequate maintenance loans and alltime-high tuition fees.
“That’s before you factor in the shift to online teaching and many students paying for accommodation they can’t use.” Some Russell
Group leaders did see their overall pay fall last year but Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of Oxford University, was not one of them. Her basic salary was £374,000 in 2019-20 but her total package added up to £457,000.
Dame Minouche Shafik, director of the London School of Economics, took a voluntary 20 per cent cut in salary from June 2020.
But a six per cent rise in her basic salary in 2019-20 to £378,000 pushed her overall remuneration up by three per cent to £507,000, including accommodation benefits.
Peter John, vice-chancellor of the University of West London, saw his salary rise by eight per cent to £320,000 and his overall package climb by 15 per cent to £393,000 – higher than many of the Russell Group leaders.
A spokeswoman said the increase was “based on the outstanding achievements of the university in 2018-19. These were driven by the vice-chancellor’s leadership.” Derby University said its vice-chancellor Kathryn Mitchell offered to take a cut to her £244,036 salary but the remuneration committee rejected the move.
Other universities whose bosses did not take pay reductions include Bath, Chester, Greenwich, Huddersfield, Leicester, Reading, South Wales and Winchester.
Only 22 university leaders take home smaller wage packets as a result of the pandemic.
Laura Rettie, vice-president of Global Communications at education consultancy Studee, said: “Students have had an incredibly difficult time and are rightfully feeling aggrieved.
“They’ve had a watered-down university experience but have had to pay full price. It’s not fair when they’ve essentially signed up to an online degree without knowing it.
“Other sectors have been forced to give refunds on things like flights and accommodation. Why are students not being treated the same?”
Accounts from the University of Exeter confirm that Sir Steve Smith, the vice-chancellor who retired last year, left with a £185,200 bonus for meeting the conditions of a “long-term incentive scheme”.
It meant that he was awarded a total of £584,000 by the university in 2019-20 even though he volunteered for a pay cut of £25,000 because of the effects of Covid.
UCU general secretary Jo O’Grady said: “Eye-watering salaries for vice-chancellors whilst some staff struggle to make ends meet are a source of shame.
“Most staff have seen their pay held down whilst spending the year under huge strain working to support students during the pandemic.
“Too many staff are suffering from stress, anxiety, heavy workloads and job insecurity, and some universities have exploited the pandemic to cut staff.
“There is a gaping chasm between how they and vicechancellors have been treated. It is galling to see.”