University heads have been enjoying immense salary boosts – including at some of the top schools in the UK – while their subordinates’ pay continues to lag behind.
The “head of provider” at Cambridge University saw their pay increase by 26% from 2016-17 to 2017-18, followed closely by their opposite numbers at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama (a leading university for creative courses), who secured pay rises of 18% and 22% respectively.
The revelations come from research published on 12th February by the Office for Students (OfS), a ‘non-departmental government body’ working under the Department of Education. The report, titled “Senior Staff Remunerations” also reveals how the salary for the average member of university staff has barely budged.
The pay boost for the Vice Chancellor of De Montford University saw their salary grow to £350 000, for example, a 22.4% rise from 2016-17, over six times higher than the modest 3.6% pay rise for “all staff” over the same time period.
At Bishop Grosseteste, the Vice Chancellor’s pay grew by nearly twenty four times that of the institution’s other workers. In terms of nominal pay, some universities pay their providers as much as thirteen times more than the university’s average salary. The so-called ‘basic salary multiple’ was highest for Royal Holloway, which stands at 13.4. When one considers remuneration as opposed to basic salary – meaning such things as benefits, bonuses and expenses are taken into account – the worst offender was Oxford, with a ‘total remuneration multiple’ of 12.8, meaning their head of provider’s salary is 12.8 times bigger than the university’s average salary.
The OfS introduced new rules last year threatening “significant” fines for giving Vice Chancellors extremely large salaries, which seems to have been ignored. All but four of the 133 institutions that were examined caid their Vice Chancellors more than £150 000, meaning barely 3% of universities paid below that. Nearly half pay more than £300 000, while six institutions pay a staggering £500 000, or possibly even more (in terms of remuneration, not basic salary). At the top of this list sits the Open University, which paid their provider £718 000 in 2017-18, up nearly 70% from £425 000 in 2016-17. Other universities paying more than £300 000 include Cambridge (£492 000), LSE (£500 000) and King’s College London (£461 000).
As a non-departmental government body, the OfS is in its infancy, celebrating its first birthday on new year's day of 2019. If it delivers research of the same quality and rigour, it may well be that injustices in higher education become harder to get away with, though the body has drawn criticism. For example, it’s provoked the ire of the University and College Union – the world’s largest higher education union – which claims that OfS are letting universities get away with high salaries without any form of justification. How effectively the OfS deal with their own intelligence, then, remains to be seen.