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17th February 2014

Ministers ‘very concerned’ by vice chancellor’s pay rises

Vince Cable and David Willetts have called for senior management to show “much greater restraint”

Universities have been warned by ministers to restrict the pay rises of vice chancellors.

In a letter to England’s Higher Education Funding Council, Business Secretary Vince Cable and Universities Minister David Willetts expressed concern about “the substantial upward drift of salaries of some top management”.

This comes at a time of university staff strikes across the country, including at the University of Manchester, over the proposed one per cent pay increase offered by employers. Staff’s pay has fallen by 13 per cent in real terms since 2009, according to the University and College Union (UCU).

However, figures show that last year vice chancellors in the Russell Group received pay rises averaging eight per cent, and a five percent rise in overall benefits.

Last month, the UCU wrote to Vince Cable, asking him to make universities reveal why senior staff are entitled to the pay rises they get.

UCU General Secretary, Sally Hunt, said at the time, “Despite promising to cut back on excessive pay at the top, vice chancellors continue to hide behind the shadowy remuneration committee when it comes to their pay rises.

“Vice chancellor’s have no problem accepting large rises while at the same time telling their staff there’s no money available and that they must accept another real-terms pay cut.

“Their continued avarice is an embarrassment for the sector and we urgently need some transparency”.

Vince Cable and David Willetts also revealed the university budged for 2014/15, which involves the teaching budget being reduced by £945 million this year, and possibly cut by another £246 million next year.

However, universities are expected to receive an increased fee income from students of £2,600 million to compensate for the cuts.

In their letter, the ministers said, “We want to see leaders in the sector exercise much greater restraint as a part of continuing to hold down increases in pay generally”.

Commenting on Vince Cable and David Willetts’s remarks, Sally Hunt said, “Ministers are right to rebuke greedy vice-chancellors for their unjustified big pay rises, not least when according to the government’s own figures average academic pay has flatlined since 2010.

“Unlike those at the top, all staff want is fair pay and we hope ministers will recognise this distinction”.

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