Rising pay of university chancellors is 'insulting'

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University vice-chancellors saw their pay and benefits package rise by 10.6 per cent, according to figures published today.

The increase brings their average remuneration to more than £200,000 a year for the first time. Last year it was £193,000. The figures are disclosed in today's Times Higher Education and have immediately sparked a furious row with lecturers' leaders.

"Staff and the public are tired of the hypocrisy from university vice-chancellors and their lack of self awareness when it comes to pay is insulting," said Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union.

Ironically, the survey emerges just days after university unions were told they could expect a pay freeze next year, with rises below the rate of inflation.

The 10.6 per cent average rise appears to show that some universities gave retiring vice-chancellors a bigger than average increase to improve their final salary, upon which their pension is based.

"I am sure 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," Ms Hunt added.

The union said the "lack of transparency" over vice-chancellors' pay was "a source of ridicule for universities".

UCEA, the university employers' body, said its research showed that the actual pay rise averaged out at 8.9 per cent for 2008/9 – roughly in line with what the rest of university staff earned for that year, which was the last year of a "generous" three-year settlement.

Universities UK, the body which represents vice-chancellors, said that this year's pay rise for vice-chancellors averaged out at 0.5 per cent – reflecting the recessionary times.

Nicola Dandridge, its chief executive, said: "We're now in quite a different funding climate and the results of our survey of vice-chancellors' and principals' pay for this year show the average increase is 0.5 per cent."