The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Nancy Rothwell claims £22000 of flights on expenses

A report by UCU has revealed a lack of transparency senior pay at UK universities. The report revealed that Vice-Chancellors earn on average £260000, and looked into the scale of expenditure on air fares

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A report by the University and College Union (UCU) has revealed that Vice-Chancellors earned on average £260000 last year.

The report, ‘Transparency at the top? Senior pay and perks in UK universities’, also revealed that 18 per cent of Vice-Chancellors received pay rises over ten per cent. This was alongside a pay dispute with lecturers taking strike action to secure a two per cent pay deal.

According to UCU, the report “exposes how UK universities adopt hugely varying levels of transparency around Vice-Chancellors’ pay and perks.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable has stated that universities should “think twice” about large pay rises for senior staff and that pay levels are “hard to swallow.”

In 2013/14 the average Vice-Chancellor spent £9706 on flights. The head of the London School of Economics topped the list spending almost £60000 on flights last year.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manchester, Dame Nancy Rothwell, spent £22256 on flights last year—with more than £15000 on business class seats, 68.5 per cent of the total bill.

Rothwell did however take a cut of 0.3 per cent to her salary, to £291000.

A university spokesperson said: “The university has partnerships and strategic interests worldwide, which involves a degree of international travel. The figure reflects a much extended and busier programme of overseas travel on behalf of the university.”

Elsewhere in Manchester, Professor Martin Hall, who has now stepped down as Vice-Chancellor at the University of Salford, received a four per cent increase, taking £252144 in 2013/2014.

Professor John Brooks at Manchester Metropolitan University received a 2.4 per cent increase, earning £292000.
16 per cent of institutions refused to respond to the freedom of information requests from UCU or used exemptions to avoid releasing the information.

The University of Manchester refused to share copies of the minutes of their remuneration committees—tasked with determining the pay of the Vice-Chancellor and senior post-holders.

UCU believes all minutes of remuneration committees should be made publicly available and that the committees should have a staff and student representative on every committee.

They are also calling for all universities who receive public funding to publish an annual list of the pay and benefits of Vice-Chancellors.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, stated that universities showed “a strong determination to keep the details of decisions on senior pay a closely guarded secret.”

Hunt also stated that “many staff and students will be amazed at the size of Vice-Chancellors’ salaries, and at the largesse displayed by some university leaders when it comes to first class flights, hotels and other expenses. That this is happening in public institutions which are largely funded by the taxpayer and students makes the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding senior pay and perks a national scandal.

“UCU has raised with ministers time and again the need for a national register of pay and perks, which would also set out the rationale for any increases. We need agreed standards for open and transparent governance in our universities so trust in the system can be restored.”

UCU regional secretary, Martyn Moss, said: “This report lifts the lid on the inconsistent and arbitrary nature of senior pay and perks in our universities and shines a light on the murky world of shadowy remuneration committees who sign off these deals. We need a far more transparent system that allows for proper scrutiny of spending at the top and the rationale behind pay rises.”

Vice-Chancellors income has come under scrutiny alongside the political debates over tuition fees.

Ed Miliband’s recent announcement called for tuition fees to be capped at £6000 per academic year. This proposal prompted university leaders to warn that cuts to tuition fees would cause financial damage to universities.

In a letter to The Times, Vice-Chancellors from 20 UK universities said: “Given the many pressures on public finances, and with all political parties committed to further public spending cuts, it is implausible that any incoming government would be able to do this.”

Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Surrey, said any evolution of the current system of tuition fees, loans and grants in England “must ensure value for money for students, prevent students from poorer backgrounds from being deterred from study, and be financially sustainable for both universities and government.”

“A £6000 fee cap meets none of these requirements,” he said.

However, in his speech in Leeds, where he set fourth this election pledge, Ed Miliband said of the present amount of debt students face, “this is a disaster for them and a disaster for the future of Britain too—a country where the next generation is doing worse than their parents is the definition of a country in decline.

“What has happened over the last five years is more than just a betrayal of election promises; it is a betrayal of an entire generation.”