Higher education: Government urged to get a grip on vice chancellor salaries

UNISON calls for greater transparency on how senior pay is agreed

UNISON has written to universities minister Jo Johnson to call for more transparency in decision-making over pay in higher education.

The letter comes after the minister today called for restraint on senior pay at universities.

The growing gap between the pay and benefits package for vice chancellors, and other senior managers, and that of low-paid staff has been a growing issue for the union.

UNISON is calling on the minister to review the university governance structures in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which lack transparency in remuneration of senior managers.

“Students stand amazed at large pay increases for senior managers at a time of increasing tuition fees and growing student debt.

“Students stand amazed at large pay increases for senior managers at a time of increasing tuition fees and growing student debt,” says UNISON national secretary Jon Richards.

“Staff also look at the large reserves held by universities and wonder why 11,955 university staff are being paid below the Living Wage Foundation’s living wage.’*

“More openness around senior pay would likely suppress some of the excessive pay rises we have seen in recent years.”

With the sector receiving nearly £3bn in public money a year, as well as student tuition fees, UNISON believes it is important that universities should reflect, and have some accountability to, their local communities.

The union pointed to Scotland, where the 2012 Von Prondzynski governance review made several recommendations that UNISON welcomed.

Debates in the Scottish Parliament during around Higher Education Governance Act 2015 saw cross party agreement to include trade union and student association nominees on remuneration committees.

Another benefit of changes has been the notable increase in the number of women members and women chairs of governing bodies.

*source: A Freedom of Information request by UNISON, 2016