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Vice-chancellors' pay in higher education institutions in England

Published Wednesday, June 20, 2018

This House of Commons library briefing paper discusses the issue of university vice-chancellors' pay and outlines regulatory changes to the system of remuneration for senior staff in higher education institutions.

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The pay of senior staff in universities is currently under scrutiny.

Vice-chancellors’ pay is a hot topic and has been discussed in the media since details of the remuneration of the vice-chancellor of the University of Bath were disclosed in September 2017. A table of vice-chancellors’ salaries in the Times Higher Education in June 2017 showed that Dame Glynis Breakwell, the vice-chancellor of the University of Bath was the highest paid university vice-chancellor in the UK; in 2016-17 she was paid a salary of £451,000. The table showed that vice-chancellors at six other universities also earned over £400,000 in that year.

It has been suggested that vice-chancellors’ salaries have increased since the rise in tuition fees in 2012, but this has not been demonstrated. Various reasons have been given for increased vice-chancellor pay and the reasons for this tend to be different in each specific situation.

On 6 June 2018 the Committee of University Chairs (CUC) published a final version of a new voluntary Code - The Higher Education Senior Staff Remuneration Code. The Code will among other things require institutions to:

  • justify their pay decisions if their leaders’ salary is in the highest sector quintile compared to average staff remuneration,
  • give consideration to the rate of increase of the average remuneration of all other staff when setting the vice-chancellors’ pay,
  • publish the pay multiple of the vice-chancellor compared to the median earnings of the whole workforce,

The Code also states that no individual should be involved in deciding their own remuneration.

The government will also take on a regulatory role in this area through the work of the Office for Students (OfS) and on 19 June 2018 the OfS announced that it would publish details of total remuneration packages paid to vice-chancellors in an annual report.

This briefing outlines the issue and gives information on policy.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-8227

Authors: Susan Hubble; Paul Bolton

Topic: Higher education

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