Vince Cable has called for 'restraint' for university vice-chancellors' and senior management's soaring pay packets.
Last week it was revealed vice-chancellors enjoyed an 8.1 per cent average salary hike in 2012-2013, compared to just 1 per cent for ordinary staff.
“Whilst universities are independent organisations with many sources of income, they do benefit from public subsidy,” Mr Cable said.
“I’m sure taxpayers would expect some degree of restraint in the salaries of top managers of universities at a time when public sector pay is still under pressure.”
The Business Secretary’s comments came in response to a letter from the secretary general of the University and College Union (UCU) Sally Hunt calling on universities to explain their executives’ high pay rises to the public.
Ms Hunt demanded that the minutes of remuneration committees be made publicly available, including the justification for pay increases.
She added there should be staff representatives on remuneration committees and urged institutions to publish an annual list of the pay and benefits of vice-chancellors and principals.
“Despite promising to cut back on excessive pay at the top, vice-chancellors continue to hide behind the shadowy remuneration committee when it comes to their pay rises,” she said.
“Vice-chancellors have no problem accepting large rises while at the same time telling their staff there’s no money available and that they must accept another real-terms pay cut.
“Their continued avarice is an embarrassment for the sector and we urgently need some transparency.”
Last week it was revealed that university bosses at Russell Group universities received a salary rise of more than £22,000 to nearly £293,000 in 2012-13.
The union says when pension payments are included, the vice-chancellors received an average package of £318,500, up from £302,500 in 2011-12.