University vice-chancellors saw their pay and benefits boosted by 10.6% last year, it was revealed today.
It means vice-chancellors are now receiving packages (excluding pensions) worth on average £219,156 according to an analysis by Grant Thornton accounts, for the Times Higher Education magazine.
The average salary alone is £207,318, a 6.8% rise on the previous year.
In total, the 152 institutions who revealed their accounts paid their leaders £33.3 million in salary and benefits, but excluding pensions in 2008/09.
Twelve universities paid their vice-chancellors more than £300,000 in salary and benefits, excluding pensions, compared to just five institutions in 2007/08.
In comparison, the average salary of an academic was £46,607, according to data published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).
The figures were condemned by union leaders, who said the pay packets were an "embarrassment" to universities, and accused vice-chancellors' of "hypocrisy".
Just days ago the University and College Union (UCU) revealed they had found out that academics can expect a pay freeze this year.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "One of the reasons vice-chancellors' pay is so embarrassing for universities is the complete lack of transparency or reason behind the arbitrary, but usually handsome, rises."
She added: "Staff and the public are tired of the hypocrisy from vice-chancellors and their lack of self-awareness when it comes to pay is insulting. I am sure that the thousands of staff at risk of losing their jobs will be delighted to learn that six-figure pay-offs are considered the norm by those at the top.
"Similar settlements and the assurance that there is not one rule for them and one for the rest will soften the crushing blow of redundancy."
Aaron Porter, Vice President (Higher Education) at the National Union of Students (NUS), said: "It is obscene for vice-chancellors to be lining their pockets with such huge pay increases while calling for students to be charged even higher fees.
"With their six-figure salaries, many vice-chancellors are obviously divorced from the stark reality that faces most of us in this country, not to mention the significant funding cuts and belt-tightening exercises that universities are currently undergoing."
The figures, although from 2008/09, have been released at a time when the higher education sector is facing swingeing funding cuts.
According to figures published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) last month, 99 of England's 130 universities are facing real-terms cuts to their funding in 2010/11, two will see their funding remain static, while just 29 will see an increase.
Vice-chancellors' pay is decided by their university's governing body.
Today's analysis shows that the highest amount paid out by an institution was £651,000, by City University. Some £393,000 of this was part of a "compromise agreement" with Malcolm Gillies, a former vice-chancellor at City when he resigned his post.
The University of East London (UEL) paid their vice-chancellor £537,000, which included a payment of £250,000 to former vice-chancellor Martin Everett after he resigned in spring 2009, according to the analysis.
It also shows that Andrew Likierman of the London Business School had the highest salary alone at £427,000.
A spokesman for the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) said: "UCEA's own research looking at the actual salary increases received by the 133 Heads of Institution who remained in post in 2008-09 shows a median increase of 8.9%, broadly in line with the more than 8% received by the majority of HE staff for that same period.
"Nearly two years have passed since these 2008/09 increases and it is no surprise that the 2009/10 remuneration figures for staff and early information on Heads of Institutions reflect extremely tight budgets and financial constraints."
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