Ninety-five per cent of university leaders are either members of their remuneration committee or entitled to attend meetings, Aban Contractor reports.
The majority of university vice-chancellors are either members of the committee that decides their salary or are allowed to attend its meetings, a freedom of information request by the University and College Union revealed today.
The UCU, which represents university staff, said the FOI also showed that at just seven UK universities the vice-chancellor was not on the committee that sets their pay or allowed to attend its meetings.
Three-quarters of universities would not share the full minutes of the committee that sets vice-chancellor pay.
‘The time has come for proper transparency of senior pay and perks in our universities and that starts with full disclosure of the shadowy remuneration committee’ University and College Union
A spokesperson for Universities UK, whose members are the vice-chancellors or principals (executive heads) of universities in the United Kingdom, told Chief-Exec.com that UUK had set up a new Committee of University Chair’s remuneration code on senior pay.
“It is right to expect that the process for determining senior university staff pay is rigorous and transparent,” the spokesperson said.
“The Committee of University Chair’s new remuneration code, currently being consulted upon, will provide important guidance for university remuneration committees to ensure senior pay decisions are fair, accountable and justified, while recognising that competitive pay is necessary to attract first rate leaders.”
The union’s findings are part of the UCU’s work looking into pay, perks and transparency at the top of universities covering the academic year 2016-17. It sent an FOI request to 158 institutions asking about membership of their remuneration committee – the body that sets vice-chancellor pay – and asked for a copy of the most recent committee minutes.
When asked about the vice-chancellor’s membership of the remuneration committee, 15 universities refused to respond and one said they did not have a remuneration committee. Of those that did respond, and had a committee, 47 per cent said the vice-chancellor was a member. Of the universities who said the vice-chancellor was not a member of the remuneration committee, just seven said they did not attend its meetings.
“Only a quarter of universities sent unredacted minutes of the latest remuneration committee meeting. Eighty-nine (55 per cent) universities said they would share the minutes, but just 40 of them were prepared to do so without redacting them fully or in part,” the UCU said.
“Of the 61 universities that are set to be hit with 14 days of strike action from next week, just two have vice-chancellors who do not either sit on their remuneration committee or can attend its meetings.”
The UCU said the average pay (excluding pensions) for vice-chancellors in 2005-06 was £165,105. Over the next decade it increased by 56.2 per cent to £257,904 in 2015-16.
‘It is right to expect that the process for determining senior university staff pay is rigorous and transparent’ Universities UK
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said that for too long universities had got away with painting remuneration committees as independent bodies to deflect attention over senior pay.
“The time has come for proper transparency of senior pay and perks in our universities and that starts with full disclosure of the shadowy remuneration committee. It is scandalous that three-quarters of universities refuse to issue full minutes of these meetings,” she said.
“We are pleased the Office for Students has said it wants to tackle the issue, but plenty of politicians have tried to address the problem in the past and failed.
“We need the vice-chancellor to be removed from the remuneration committee and barred from attending its meetings. Staff and students should be given seats at the top table in universities and all minutes should be made public.”
Table 1: Membership of remuneration committee
|Is the VC a member of the remuneration committee?|
Table 2: Attendance if not a member
|If not a member, is the VC allowed to attend?|
Table 3: Remuneration committee minutes
|Sent remuneration committee minutes?||Redacted?|