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By David Palmer
Vice-Chancellor Prof. Andrew Hamilton’s “outrageous” pay is more than £180,000 higher than Cambridge’s, new figures reveal.
Hamilton’s remunerations over the 2010-2011 academic year came to a total of £424,000, a figure which encompasses salary (£330,000), benefits (£41,000) and pension (£53,000), and represents a 0.4 percent increase on the previous year.
In contrast, Cambridge’s VC, Prof. Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, received a total remuneration package of only £258,000.
Anna Sheinman, a final year Law student at Downing College, Cambridge gave her opinion on the disparity in pay between the two universities: “I suppose given that Oxford was the Royalist capital in the Civil War, whereas Cambridge, the alma mater of Oliver Cromwell, was a Puritan stronghold, it’s rather fitting that so much more wealth is lavished on the acting head of your university in comparison to ours.
“I’m sure the difference however has nothing to do with it, and is probably to do with how long they have both been in office, and how much competition there is for the job or other salient economic factors. Frankly I’m more irritated that they’re both white middle-aged men than by how much they are paid, relatively or absolutely. They look terrifying similar. Perhaps the difference in salaries is a ruse to distract us from realising that they are actually both the same person.”
Hamilton topped a list of 13 Russell Group VCs compiled by The Guardian; putting him £5,000 a year clear of the University of Birmingham’s Prof. David Eastwood – despite Birmingham having more than twice the number of students.
A spokesperson for Oxford University defended the Vice-Chancellors pay, saying that the high figure simply reflected the high status of the university.
They noted that, “according to most national league tables Oxford is the number one university in the UK.”
They continued: “[The University] makes a major contribution to the economic prosperity of the UK and the UK’s position in the world, as well as to tackling global challenges through its research. Its research output is vast, it has an almost billion-pound-a-year turnover not including the colleges and OUP, and it has great institutional complexity.”
The university also said that the 0.4 percent increase in the Vice-Chancellors pay is the same increase all university staff received.
One Wadham student however remained unconvinced by the University’s explanation: “Obviously I understand that the VC’s pay has to reflect the success of the institution they represent, but are we really more than 50 percent better than Cambridge? I know that according to the QS World University Rankings Cambridge is supposed to be the best uni in the world. How can Oxford justify tripling its fees when it’s paying the VC half a million quid a year?
An English student at Newnham College, Cambridge was also skeptical about Oxford’s statement: “the notion that the pay of the VC is dependent upon the quality of the university appears to me to be an obvious fiction. Cambridge is regularly rated above Oxford by respected national and international league tables. Cambridge clearly just has a different idea of what its financial priorities should be.”
A first year historian however defended the University’s position: “Frankly if you compare the VC’s wages to some of the top guys over in the city his pay really isn’t all that high. If the bloke at Cambridge doesn’t get as much, more fool him, I for one am pleased that Oxford pays its VC a proper amount of money.’
Co-chair of Oxford University Labour Club Tom Adams also described the situation as “quite frankly, disgusting”.
He said that the fact the “Vice-Chancellor is paid over £400,000 when not all staff the university employs receive the Oxford Living Wage of £7.20 is evidence of a wider problem of huge gaps in pay between those at the top of a company and those at the bottom”.
Suggesting the university should implement “proposals for workers from the lower pay scales sitting on the remuneration committees which decide executive pay” and added that this would “ensure greater fairness and equity in the pay of staff at the university.”
The figures come after a review entitled “Fair Pay in the Public sector” by Hertford Principle Will Hutton found that the highest ratio between the staff and executive pay in the public sector is in higher education.
A spokesperson for Cambridge University said: “It’s up to Oxford how much they pay their staff, I don’t think we could comment.”
The review, released in March last year, found that the median vice-chancellor’s salary was 15.35 times the bottom of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association pay spine for university staff.
The same report also noted that the ratio for Russell group universities was even higher than the national average at 19:1.
General secretary of the University and College Union Sally Hunt said: “Vice-chancellors’ pay and perks are bound to raise eyebrows, especially when university staff have taken a real-terms pay cut of seven percent since 2009”.
Hunt also noted the need for “greater transparency and accountability over executive pay and privileges”, adding that “Unless there is proper scrutiny of vice-chancellors’ pay and perks revelations like this will continue to embarrass the sector and make it look self-serving to the wider world.”