Oxford is not known for coming second best. It’s ranked highest in The Times and The Guardian league tables and it attracts some of the finest minds from around the world. But now it has something else to shout about – it employs the highest-paid university official in the country.
In The Guardian’s recent comparison of pay across UK universities, Oxford endowment manager Sandra Robertson topped the table.
Her salary of £683,000 last year – not including expenses claims of £43,665 – left the competition trailing behind, with the next highest-paid, the Vice-Chancellor, taking home £474,000.
The new government’s focus on the pay of top officials – including publishing the salaries of all civil servants earning over £150,000 – has focused attention on the pay and perks of Oxford’s senior administrators.
Spending on the fundraiser
With gardens to the front and side, seven bedrooms, a drawing room, sitting room, dining room and kitchen/breakfast room, there is surely no shortage of people who would like to live in the substantial North Oxford residence that was put on the market in 2004. The main barrier would probably be the price on the front of the estate agent’s brochure – £1.25 million.
But for the University this did not prove an obstacle – and they became the proud owner of the property in 2005, for £1 million. Unbeknown to Oxford’s academics – and even its governing body – the house soon had a new occupant.
Jon Dellandrea, an outgoing career fundraiser from Canada, was hired from the University of Toronto to be Oxford’s first head of development and external affairs. He arrived with great fanfare in 2005, with then Vice-Chancellor John Hood saying that “Oxford is very fortunate to have been able to attract someone of the calibre of Jon Dellandrea.”
But dons soon started asking questions: Who had appointed Dellandrea? What was his salary? Who set it? And now – almost two years after he left Oxford in summer 2008 – the veil of secrecy still refuses to lift.
Our revelation about his University-owned home this week has, however, provoked anger from dons – showing that Dellandrea remains a divisive figure.
One member of Council, the University’s governing body, said: “Dellandrea was not dealt with by Council. The Senior Salaries Committee doesn’t tell Council anything worth knowing. We didn’t know about the house. The Pro-Vice-Chancellors in those dark ages were just appointed by the Vice-Chancellor. Now there is a procedure for this and a selection panel.”
Another senior academic said: “There wasn’t a procedure in place for appointing him, so it was done.”
Dellandrea also regularly used a chauffeur to go about his University business.
A University spokesperson said: “In the course of University business, senior officers, including Pro-Vice-Chancellors, are able to make use of a University vehicle and a driver where necessary.
“The University does not employ full-time drivers or chauffeurs.”
Students have also questioned the University’s remuneration decisions.
Hannah Thompson, co-ordinator of the Oxford Anti-Cuts Campaign, said: “It’s really inappropriate for someone to spend £1m on a house. It’s a ridiculous luxury that the University can’t afford – especially [the use of] a chauffeur on top of a seven-bedroom house.
“I’m interested to know how they would justify investing in such a large house.”
The spokesperson defended Dellandrea’s conditions of employment.
She said: “The address you are referring to was bought for the University’s investment portfolio and still remains in the possession of the University.
“It is managed in the same way as its other similar properties and is currently let out at a commercial rate.”
She would not be drawn on who appointed Dellandrea or his salary, commenting: “The University does not make public the terms and conditions of an individual’s employment without that individual’s consent.
“All Pro-Vice-Chancellors report directly to the Vice-Chancellor.”
But Dellandrea is not the only Oxford official to have benefited from the University’s largesse.
Oxford pays more than 135 non-clinical staff more than £100,000 a year, according to the University’s latest accounts.
Former Vice-Chancellor John Hood earned £327,000 in his last year in the job, including pension contributions. This made him the sixth highest-paid VC in the country, according to The Guardian’s investigation.
This newspaper revealed in Michaelmas that the VC also lives in a University-owned property, which is worth £3.5 million.
This comes in stark contrast to the government’s desire to cut public sector pay and perks.
In a letter sent to universities across the country a fortnight ago, ministers Vince Cable and David Willetts wrote: “We are expecting [our department]… to apply restraint to all aspects of pay and bonuses with a lead being given by senior staff. We expect universities and colleges will wish to do the same.”
The Oxford Student this week asked all of Oxford’s college heads – and some of the central University’s top administrators – whether they would voluntarily reveal their salaries.
Just four heads of houses responded with their salaries – even so, revealing a gap of over £20,000 between the lowest and highest paid.
Sir Ivor Crewe at Univ was paid £91,742 last year, with Merton’s Dame Jessica Rawson (£86,912), Wadham’s Sir Neil Chalmers (£80,052) and Green Templeton’s Colin Bundy (£70,000) coming behind.
Frances Cairncross, Exeter’s Rector, said: “This is not information that I want to publish. My full employment costs are annually approved by Governing Body in the College’s management accounts.”
But Thompson questioned why heads of houses were reluctant to publish their salaries.
“It makes institutions look very dishonest when they don’t respond to investigations into pay. Why would you hide it? Are you ashamed of it?” she said.
None of the University officials contacted – including all Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Finance Director Giles Kerr, Development Director Sue Cunningham and Public Affairs Director Jeremy Harris – replied to our enquiry.
The University said that it was treating the emails as a request under the Freedom of Information Act. A spokesperson said that the individuals would need to consult each other before deciding whether or not to make their salaries public.
One senior academic questioned the University’s reluctance to answer the questions this week. He said: “They’re hiding behind the figleaf of calling it a Freedom of Information request, which it wasn’t.”
Similarly, the University this week refused to publish a copy of a report into Jon Dellandrea’s conditions of employment carried out by Oxford’s internal Audit and Scrutiny Committee.
A spokesperson said: “As the Audit and Scrutiny Committee report is not publicly available, the Press Office cannot provide you with a copy of it.”