Vice-Chancellor Michael Farthing opts out of pay rise Photo: sussex.ac.uk

Although the average pay for top staff at UK universities has risen, University of Sussex vice-chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, has taken the decision to keep his pay the same.

His voluntary choice to keep his wage at £227, 000 means that he has not taken a pay rise since 2009, despite the rise in inflation and cost of living.

The average wage increase for other top universities vice-chancellors has risen by £9, 700, with the average take home pay exceeding £330, 000.

Eight out of the top thirteen universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and Birmingham, have rewarded their vice-chancellors with pay increases.

The most highly paid was Oxford University’s Professor Andrew Hamilton, who received a pay packet of £424, 000 which was made up of £371, 000 salary and £53, 000 pension contributions.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said that pay packets of £330, 000 were “eye-wateringly high” and that the government had a duty to  monitor excessive pay.

Ms Hunt said: “I think there is a strong argument, especially in light of the current clampdown on executive pay, for employee and student representatives to sit on university remuneration boards.”

The decisions regarding the Sussex vice-chancellors’ pay is undertaken by a remuneration committee.

The committee said that Michael Farthing’s wage is in-line with his role and directly comparable to other Higher Education establishments.

However, concerns have been raised about the lack of student and employee input to this remuneration panel, and also the fact that it often keeps its discussions private.

“It is vital that we ensure there is proper scrutiny of vice-chancellors’ pay and pension provision if we are to avoid suspicion of one law for those at the top and another for the rest” said Ms Hunt.

Usman Ali, vice-president of the NUS, said that students facing record tuition fees and high youth unemployment levels would find the thought of “university fat cats lining their pockets even further utterly sickening.”

One student said: “In times of greater student fees, there should be more transparency in the way the university deals with top earning staff.

“I’m not even sure if I find it appropriate that a single staff member should earn nearly a quarter of a million pounds a year.”
Sussex University also revealed that a total of 31 members of staffearned over £100, 000 in 2011.but refused to either name them or admit how much of an increase they had received since last year.

The lack of clarity over staff earning a combined minimum of £3,100,000 while university budgets continue to be cut has raised concerns among staff and students.

Mr Ali said: “universities must listen to students’ unions and make their expenses and pay structures transparent to stop abuses.”
High salaries and bonuses for top staff are regarded as essential in order for universities to remain competitive.

In an increasingly international market, they must pay large sums to attract the best staff.

But many students are now being forced into paying higher fees while those in charge continue to be awarded larger pay packets.

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