Home News As staff battle for pensions, vice-chancellor’s salaries rise

As staff battle for pensions, vice-chancellor’s salaries rise

As staff battle for pensions, vice-chancellor’s salaries rise

It seems that in the wake of staff battling for their pensions, vice-chancellor’s salaries are actually on the increase.

Many striking university staff expressed their annoyance and anger this week at new information surrounding an increase in university chancellor’s salaries.

Paddy Nixon, the vice-chancellor of Ulster University actually received a pay increase of £14,000, that’s in addition to his already impressive sum of a quarter of a million.

It was also revealed that the whole chancellor package, including pension schemes and benefits comes to an impressive and rather shocking £311,000.

With staff striking at 61 universities over cuts to their own pensions, it is understandable that these new figures have caused a substantial amount of anger amongst many sectors.

The investigation has also looked into the salaries of prominent vice-chancellors at universities ranging from Queen’s College in Belfast through to The University of Manchester.

At Queen’s University Belfast the average salary for a vice chancellor comes in at £261,000, whilst pension schemes and benefits bring the sum up again to £327,000.

The issue is not just confined to Northern Ireland, in England the average salary for a vice chancellor comes in at £268,000.

Further reports have been revealed that all vice-chancellors saw their pay rise an average of £10,000 in 2016, with chancellor’s salaries usually experiencing a 4 per cent increase each year!

Understandably, fears over spiralling fees are now becoming a prominent feature of university life, especially as February and March are set to be dominated by university strikes over attacks towards pensions.

The head of the UCU, Dr Schuppert has expressed his frustration at the increases, ‘whilst staff struggle to keep hold of their pensions; ‘ university leaders want to cut our pensions by up to 55% – we’re being told that our vice-chancellors are earning more than ever, while all of these people tell the rest of us to tighten our belts, that we should be happy enough to face the possibility of poverty in old age. They’re telling staff on precarious contracts that the universities can’t afford to give them job security. And they’re telling us that our pensions are un affordable – even though they’ve budgeted for them in their own estimates. This is simply indefensible.’

Peter Horrocks, the vice-chancellor of the Open University has suggested this week that he completely deserves his salary of nearly £360,000, stating that he is completely rushed off his feet with the all the redundancies that he is over seeing, how beautifully ironic.

Many vice-chancellors had to justify their pay packets during a parliamentary meeting for value for money concerning education, with many MP’s feeling that a definite shake up is needed of the current financial system, pouring more money into education, rather than vice-chancellor’s pay packets.

When it comes to determining the salaries, many universities claim that their amounts are determined by an individual board.

A spokesperson from Queen Belfast University commented that; ‘the vice-chancellor’s salary is determined by the University’s remuneration committee, a sub-committee of its governing body and senate’.

They have also gone on to argue that the vice-chancellor does of course partake in extensive work, involving themselves fully in the workings of the university, communication with students and the daily life of lecturers.

Yet, with thousands of letters being sent to vice-chancellors this week over the strikes, and little to no response being heard, are vice-chancellor’s actually earning their keep and really keeping student’s interests at heart?

Horrocks has expressed his concern at the government wishing to regulate and effectively cap the salaries of vice-chancellors, stating that it would completely disregard the diversity of universities around the country, as each college requires a chancellor with a specific skill set, experience and expertise.

For many people, of course, this simply sounds like Peter Horrocks has grown quite fond of his pay packet.

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the UCU has commented on the strange absurdity of measuring the need for high pay against the pressure of staff redundancies, calling the claim absolutely ‘tone deaf’.

Hunt then went on to emphasise the fact that when it comes to staff and vice-chancellors, the rules are always different.

Whilst many disputes and disturbances around vice chancellor pay packets have surfaced over the past years, they do seem to simply fizzle out, leaving a few disgruntled people behind.

However, the timing of this investigation, being placed alongside the highly covered staff strike has ultimately led to anger and frustration felt amongst the public being much more grounded and much more severe.

Staff are striking because of a possible fifty per cent cut to their pensions, whist chancellor salaries rise each year and pensions are handed out like party bags.

The World University Rankings offers an insight into the average amounts paid to vice-chancellors, ranging from Birmingham University at £400,000 annually, through to the University of Bath who are forking out a massive £800,000 on their chancellor every year!

So, why are vice-chancellors being paid so much?

Shattock, a former registrar at the University of Warwick has shed some light on a possible reason behind the staggeringly high pay packets; that reason? Laziness.

Shattock has explained that in many cases, universities tend to fear the application process for vice chancellors as it tends to be long, tedious and involve up to hundreds of interviews and applications; ‘Governors do not want to go through the hassle of appointing a new vice-chancellor, so they make sure they give [the existing one] a little more each year’.

This ‘little more’ can definitely be seen in the case of the University of Bath, with concerns over the annual vice-chancellor pay possibly rising into the millions now being a very real possibility.

With staff now striking for an expected month, although there are claims that the strike could last up to five, is it time to really investigate the salaries of our top ranking staff?

Visit The World University Rankings for more information on your university or head over to this site to find out whether your university is being affected by the strike and what people are doing about it all.


Elizabeth Whittingham Elizabeth is a history graduate currently working in content and communications.