Decisions made by universities to determine pay increases for vice-chancellors have been slammed as unaccountable and "murky" in a report by the UK's largest academic trade union. 

Just two of the 139 institutions – Glasgow and Stirling - provided details of the reasons for their vice chancellors’ pay increase when asked by the University and College Union (UCU) to hand over the minutes of remuneration committee meetings.

Only 27 institutions sent their meeting minutes, and 14 of those provided edited versions. Two thirds of those asked refused to provide information for confidentiality reasons – and 15 per cent failed to respond altogether.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, criticised universities for hiding details of pay increases “behind closed doors with no accountability”.

“The time has come for the lid to be lifted on the hitherto murky world of remuneration committees and senior pay in our universities”, she said. “Students are paying £9,000 a year and they, and the taxpayer, have a right to know why so much of their money is going on paying the vice-chancellor.”

She added: “All but five vice-chancellors earned more than the Prime Minister last year, while staff have been on strike six times this year in protest at a measly one per cent pay offer.”

On average, vice-chancellors enjoyed a five per cent pay rise last year, while university staff were offered a rise of one per cent. The UCU argues that staff have seen their wages drop by 13 per cent in real terms since 2009.

Talks between unions and vice-chancellors’ representatives are due to take place on Tuesday 15 April, while the UCU’s marking boycott is due to begin on Monday 28 if the dispute is not resolved.

The move will see students’ marks withheld indefinitely by academic staff, which could prevent students from graduating and applying applying for jobs or places in further education.