University 'fat cats' blamed in pay row

By Andy McSmith
Friday 17 January 2014 05:56
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University staff have accused their "fat cat" employers of accepting generous cost-of-living allowances while refusing to award them to lower paid staff.

The normally moderate Association of University Teachers has published a list of its top 10 "hypocrites": highly paid heads of London universities who are accused of blocking the union's claim for better cost-of-living allowances.

The decision to "name and shame" well paid vice-chancellors comes on the eve of a ballot for strike action over pay. Among those named is Anthony Giddens, the £160,000-a-year head of the London School of Economics, who is viewed as one of the intellectual authors of the Third Way, the political philosophy espoused by Tony Blair.

The union's main target, however, is Sir Richard Sykes, the £242,000-a-year head of Imperial College, London, who is accused by the AUT of being the "stumbling block" who has prevented other London colleges from settling.

Sir Richard, who is also chairman of the pharmaceutical conglomerate GlaxoSmithKline, is behind a controversial proposal to merge Imperial College and University College London, and an equally contentious plan to impose top-up fees of up to £10,500 on students.

The union has taken revenge not just by revealing Sir Richard's salary but also by giving out details of the grace-and-favour residence that goes with his job.

The house, at 170 Queen's Gate, near the Albert Hall, was designed by the Victorian architect Norman Shaw and is now estimated to be worth several million pounds.

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the AUT, said: "Richard Sykes wants to increase costs massively for London students on the one hand, and freeze pay for those who teach them on the other. Some university staff are struggling on as little as £12,500 inclusive of London weighting, and yet he and the other University of London vice-chancellors are on huge salaries which give them, in effect, a London bonus that's worth £16,000.

"Not only that but, with his job, he has been given a free luxury property in the heart of London, while less fortunate university staff are so poor they have no choice but to share accommodation that is little better than student standard. For many people, buying a flat or having a family are out of the question."

Five unions have combined to ballot their members on whether or not to hold a series of one-day strikes, beginning on 14 November, to support their demand for an improved London weighting. It is the first time that the AUT has held a strike ballot on London weighting in its 82-year history. The result of this ballot should be known on Friday.

Lecturers are paid an annual £2,134 allowance towards the extra cost of living in London. This is about £1,000 a year less than is paid to London school teachers, who are also threatening to strike in support of their demand for an increase. The amount has not changed since 1992.

The AUT claims that vice-chancellors working in the capital are paid an average of £136,000, compared with £120,000 in the remainder of the country – implying that they receive a London weighting of £16,000.

Ms Hunt claimed: "At a time when people are increasingly concerned about the fat-cat payments made to some senior managers, vice-chancellors at London universities will clearly be seen as being hypocritical. The situation is quite frankly scandalous."

The top earners

The AUT's top 10 targets, with 2000-01 pay in brackets, are:

Sir Richard Sykes, Imperial College (£242,000)

Andrew Haines, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (£166,000)

Anthony Giddens, London School of Economics (£160,000)

Arthur Lucas, King's College (£158,000)

Sir Derek Roberts, UCL (£156,000*)

Robert Boyd, St George's Hospital Medical School (£152,000)

Professor Michael Thorne, University of East London, (£189,000*)

Steven Schwartz, Brunel University (£154,000*)

Kenneth Barker, Thames Valley (£150,000)

Professor Deian Hopkin, South Bank (£137,000)

* Predecessor's 2000-01 salary

From survey in 'Times Higher Education Supplement'

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