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.”
The University Development Office’s burgeoning army of administrators has unveiled their latest fundraising weapon: perjurer peer Jeffrey Archer.
Archer, who was imprisoned for two years for lying about paying a prostitute, will preside over an auction at the Royal Opera House next month, hiking bidding for some “unique and valuable prizes.”
The £200-a-head black tie event is sponsored by Sir Victor Blank, the former chairman of Lloyds Banking Group and one-time member of Oxford’s governing body.
The concert, which has been promoted to University dons, will raise money for Oxford Philomusica, an Oxford-based orchestra.
Although the orchestra is an independent charity, money raised at the fundraising gala – and all donations to the charity – count towards Oxford University’s fundraising total.
More than £1,500,000 of donations to the orchestra in the past three years has been counted as part of the “Oxford Thinking” giving total, even though the charity spends much of its money putting on concerts and running outreach schemes unconnected to the University.
The drive to raise money for an independent charity is just one example underpinning widespread academic concern that the University’s much-vaunted fundraising campaign, “Oxford Thinking”, is not focused enough on raising money for the University’s core priorities.
The wrong priorities?
In an interview with The Oxford Student, University Development Director Sue Cunningham set out the three priorities of the Oxford Thinking campaign, which has so far raised over £800m: supporting students, supporting academic posts and developing the University’s infrastructure.
But dons have suggested that these priorities are extremely vague, allowing almost any fundraising project to fit within them. Cunningham herself admits that 500 different priorities suggested by academics all “fell very comfortably” within these three areas.
Christ Church don Peter Oppenheimer said: “What do you mean posts? If someone says I want a post in Botswanan philology… they’ll say, “How much money is it? £2 million? We’ll have it.” That’s not a policy… First of all they shouldn’t be building in the present [economic] situation, but secondly posts should be geared to genuine priorities.”
At a time when Oxford is struggling to keep its finances in the black in the wake of cuts to its government grants that could last five years, many academics want the University to focus on endowed fellowships and undergraduate bursaries.
One member of Council, the University’s governing body, said: “There’s a headline [fundraising] figure of £800m but there are also large and growing deficits in some of our divisions – those two things don’t match.
“We’ve got to raise money for things we’re already doing or we’ve got to agree we don’t want to do it anymore. Otherwise we’ll have a university with lots of sparkling new buildings and institutes while core teaching and research will wither.”
Philosophy don Alan Ryan, former head of New College, agreed with this analysis. He said: “Piling up institutes makes it look as if they have raised lots of money, but they haven’t actually raised much for the University’s core functions…The big ultimate tension is the number of things that are attractive versus the expense of undergraduate teaching… There is a great temptation to have shiny new donors paying for shiny new buildings, but the University then asks for half of the time of our shiny fellow, but they can’t pay for it. Fundraising really needs to be devoted much more to the core functions.”
Cunningham countered this, arguing that fundraisers would already only allow donors to make gifts that fell within Oxford’s core needs.
“If what they want to do and support in Oxford isn’t actually core to what Oxford wants to do…that is not something that ultimately happens,” she said.
But the University’s support of Oxford Philomusica’s fundraising drive, which is advertised on the “Oxford Thinking” website, calls this assertion into question.
Oxford Philomusica fundraiser Simon Payne confirmed that all donations to the charity count towards the University’s fundraising total, even though the organisation is not part of the University.
Although it is the University’s “Orchestra in Residence”, it does not spend most of its time working with Oxford students.
Instead, it works with a wide variety of schools and hospitals in the region and puts on a number of public concerts outside of term time.
Payne said the orchestra aspired to serve the whole Thames Valley.
Cunningham explained the partnership, saying: “If somebody wishes to support Oxford Philomusica, we should be enormously grateful that they want to do that and Oxford Philomusica and its relationship with the University is multi-faceted and provides benefit to students [and] to the community.”
But Oppenheimer was not convinced that all of the orchestra’s donations should count towards Oxford’s fundraising target.
He said: “I’m all in favour of it [Oxford Philomusica] but what has it got to do with the University?… It is obviously misleading and inappropriate [for donations to count towards Oxford's target].”
In a letter publicising the Royal Opera House concert, seen by The Oxford Student, an Oxford Philomusica official states: “The event… aims to raise funds for Oxford Philomusica Trust, a registered charity… As the University of Oxford’s professional Orchestra in Residence, Oxford Philomusica is part of the Campaign for Oxford and any funds it raises for its own purposes will go towards meeting the target for the Campaign.”
College fundraisers have explained how hard it can be to persuade a donor to donate to a particular project – and how a college can benefit from a plurality of giving opportunities.
Kirsty MacDonald, Wadham’s Development Director, said: “Donors have to give to what they want to give to, but…donors usually respond to what you say are the priorities.
“What we don’t want to do is say you can give to whatever you like and people to come up with things that just aren’t important to the success of the college. At the same time, you can’t tell somebody you must give to this and not to that.”
Spending money to make money
Dons are also concerned at the rapid growth in the size of the University’s Development Office.
It now employs 83 administrators compared to 44 in 2002, according to figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
One Wellington Square official described the staffing numbers as “a hangover from Dellandrea’s days,” a reference to the University’s former Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Development, hired in 2005.
In fact, the statistics show that the number of UK Development Office staff more than doubled, from 24 to 50, the year after Dellandrea arrived.
The fundraisers’ payroll totaled over £4m last year, with total Development Office costs reaching £7m.
This means that the University spent about 13% of its donation income on office overheads, though these costs are borne by other University income.
But Cunningham said that this performance was better than other universities are achieving.
She said: “Relative to the UK average, which is something over 33p [on overheads per pound raised]… in higher education, that suggests that we’re doing really well. I think it’s really important that when one develops relationships and people give very generously one is investing the resources to ensure that you’re thanking those donors and continuing a relationship with those donors so you don’t… make a gift, we write you a thank you letter and then you don’t hear anything for 25 years.”
There are also signs that the fundraising effort is slowing, a suggestion that has been hotly contested by the University in the past. The figures show that while the Development Office raised £97m for the “Oxford Thinking” campaign in 2007-08, it only raised £53.5m in 2008-09 and £32.9m since August last year.