The new Business Secretary, Vince Cable, is quite right to single out the pay of vice-chancellors for attack. There have been extraordinary increases in vice-chancellors' salaries in the past decade: last year, their pay and benefits rose by more than 10 per cent.
The universities argue that the vice-chancellors deserve this money because they need to attract, reward and retain high-calibre people. It is true that the job of vice-chancellor has become much more complicated and stressful in the past 20 years, but during the recession should they really be earning an average of £219,000 a year, or, in the case of Professor Malcolm Grant, the provost of University College London, £376,190?
We would argue that vice-chancellors should commit themselves to a pay freeze and set an example to their staff at a time when everyone is having to tighten their belts and when the public sector is suffering severe cuts to its budget. Vince Cable accuses university leaders of being out of step with reality. How can they expect their employees and the general public to accept spending cuts when they show no self-sacrifice?