Your reward for losing £50m? £683,000

Oxford University fund manager was paid £683,000 despite investment failings

The financier responsible for Oxford University's investment portfolio claimed more than £37,000 in expenses last year and was paid nearly £700,000 even though the value of the endowments she managed fell by nearly £50m.

Sandra Robertson, who is employed by the university to manage funds totalling around £1bn, took home a total pay packet last year of £683,000, including pension contributions, according to accounts recently published online.

A separate freedom of information request by The Independent also revealed that Ms Robertson claimed more than £37,000 in expenses on top of her salary.

During the same period, however, the endowment she managed fell by 5 per cent, earning no income for the university or its colleges. The university did, however, earn £692,000 from charging its own colleges to invest with the fund.

Faced with cuts of up to £398m over the coming 12 months, Britain's universities will be more reliant than ever on topping up their incomes through investing endowments from donors and benefactors. But instability in the financial markets has seen the value of endowments take a steep tumble. In the States, where universities receive much less funding from the taxpayer and rely heavily on invested endowments, some Ivy League establishments have seen falls as high as 20 per cent.

Some dons believe the head of Oxford's primary investment fund should have tried to cut down on her expenses at a time when faculties and staff are facing widespread cuts. "I think these 'subsistence' claims are indefensible in a climate where we are talking of layoffs and cutting student numbers," said Diane Purkiss, an English tutor at Keble College. "Paying this woman a jet-setting salary does not in any way guarantee performance."

Before she was appointed head of Oxford University Endowment Management (OUEM) Ltd in September 2007, Robertson was co-head of portfolio management at the Wellcome Trust, the UK's largest charity. She is also a non-executive director of the Rothschild Investment Trust, controlled by the Rothschild dynasty. The OUEM, which is listed in records at Companies House as "a wholly owned subsidiary" of Oxford University, invests endowments for all but five of the university's colleges as well as the university itself. It boasts funds totalling approximately £900m compared to Cambridge's £1bn.

Robertson's income is more than double that of Oxford's vice-chancellor and more than six times higher than most academics are paid. A spokesperson said that claims were for travel and subsistence, including frequent trips to the United States.

In comparison the total salaries bill for four staff at Oxford Investment Partners, a rival investment company which manages endowments for five colleges, came to £350,000.

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the Taxpayers' Alliance, said: "This Oxford Rich List makes the university look out of touch with both economic reality and with the people who pay to keep them in their ivory towers. Next time the university demands more money from the taxpayer or from students, these figures will be remembered."

A spokesperson for the university defended Robertson's claims and her overall salary increase. "Endowments are managed for long-term returns, within which there are inevitable short-term fluctuations," she said. "The idea is to get a rising line – obviously that rising trend will have ups and downs within it depending on the markets. Minus 5 per cent is a good performance given comparator institutions and the global economic crisis."

She added: "All institutions and companies, whether public, charitable or private, allow staff to claim expenses for meetings and travel undertaken for work; salary is irrelevant. Investment professionals need to research and examine different investment opportunities, funds and managers, in different countries, in order to do their jobs."


Value of funds under Sandra Robertson's control.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Health & Safety Consultant

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic and exciting opport...

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Day In a Page

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'