With tuition fees continually rising, students are increasingly demanding transparency about where their money is being spent. The revelation that much of it is simply bulking up vice-chancellors’ pay cheques, whilst under-resourced students suffer from over-crowded lecture theatres and increases in accommodation costs, is quite frankly appalling.
Times Higher Education has revealed that the vice-chancellor average salary increased 7% in real terms over the last five years, whilst other university professors have actually seen a real term salary drop of 3.1%. Figures from the University and College Union show that the average salary of a vice-chancellor in 2015/16 was a staggering £277,834.
Universities Minister Jo Johnson and former Labour Education Minister Lord Adonis, two of the most vocal opponents to these pay rises, agree that students have every right to be sickened by this. Johnson has said that universities paying vice-chancellors’ more than £150,000 could be fined, because, “exceptional pay can only be justified by exceptional performance.”
Students pay these salaries, but don’t get a say
Britain’s ever-increasing tuition fees make us the laughing-stock of our European counterparts, who offer tuition fees often just in the hundreds of euros, and yet still boast some of the world’s most successful educational institutions. We get the same resources, level of expertise and opportunities, and yet we pay in excess of £9000 per year – where is this going, if not just into people’s wallets?
Professor Breakwell, the Vice-Chancellor of Bath University, currently earns three times more than the prime minister, and even had the audacity to claim a further £20,000 in “domestic expenses”, despite living in university-owned accommodation. Her pay rises were indeed granted by a remuneration committee of which Breakwell herself was a member, a common practice in universities, with over two-third of vice-chancellors’ being allowed to join the remuneration committee.
This deceitful behaviour is only compounded by a lack of democracy; students pay these salaries, but don’t get a say in who their vice-chancellor actually is. While people complain about the Prime Minister’s hefty payroll, at least she was actually elected (whether it was democratically or not is a deserving of another article). The question we should all be asking ourselves is: what does our vice-chancellor do to deserve such a high salary? And ultimately: do any of you even know his name?