Universities criticised for not responding to FoI request on ‘bosses’ pay and perks’ as costs increase for students

Universities, however, retaliate by insisting information is already in the public domain

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Monday 08 February 2016 15:13

Around 24 universities have been accused of “wriggling out of their responsibilities” after apparently failing to respond to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request on “bosses’ pay and perks,” according to a union.

The University and College Union (UCU) - which represents over 100,000 academics within further and higher education in the UK - described how greater sanctions are needed to ensure universities “justify some of the largesse that has embarrassed higher education in recent years.”

University vice-chancellors’ salaries and perks have recently been a source of frustration for staff and government ministers, said the union, with “huge sums of public money” going on, among other things, “healthy salary increases.”

The UCU’s comments have come as the Government consults on whether or not to exempt universities from FoI legislation, a move the union said would “not make sense” at a time of increased costs for students.

UCU’s general secretary, Sally Hunt, described how the legislation is important in holding universities - that spend millions of pounds of public money - to account, something, she said, was “not acceptable” when some institutions simply refused to share this information.

She said: “The full extent of universities’ spending on pay and perks for their bosses may make uncomfortable reading for some, but that does not give them the right to escape scrutiny.

“To exempt universities from FoI legislation at a time of increased costs for students does not make sense. We want to see greater sanctions on universities that blatantly ignore these requests, or try to wriggle out their responsibilities.”

A spokesman from the University of Chester, however, which is one of the institutions to feature on UCU’s list, described how the university includes senior staff salaries on pages 27 and 28 of its annual financial statements, and added: “These are freely available on the Charity Commission website.”

Another on the list, Edge Hill University in Lancashire, told the Independent it seeks to respond to all legitimate request for information. A spokesperson added: “As senior staff remuneration is reported in Edge Hill University’s annual accounts - which is a public document, published and available to everyone on the university website - there was no requirement for the information to be requested using FoI legislation.”

The University of Bolton echoed the aforementioned statements and said: “All this information is available to the public on our website under financial statements.”

The University of Brighton* told the Independent it didn’t know why it appeared on the UCU list, as it “did not receive this FoI from UCU.” However, the UCU insisted the request was sent to the institution.

UCU has also announced it will be releasing its latest ‘pay and perks’ survey on Thursday, and said: “Universities should not escape the spotlight by refusing to answer legitimate questions about their finances and how they spend public money.”

*’Bradford’ has been correctly amended to read ‘Brighton’

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