HEFCE launches inquiry into VC pay

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Following the speech on the VC pay made by Lord Adonis in the House of Lords last month, HEFCE (Higher Education Funding Council for England) has launched an inquiry into how senior staff at the University are paid.

HEFCE, broadly speaking, regulates the Higher Education sector and funds universities and colleges across England. The inquiry will focus on transparency, in particular the governance practice in relation to the remuneration of the senior staff. The University currently operates with a remuneration committee of five individuals, one of whom is the Vice- Chancellor herself.

This inquiry comes on the back of the 11% rise (versus the 1.1. % imposed on staff) in VC pay taking it to 451,000 pounds making Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell the highest paid VC in the country. This is contrary to the recommended 1% public sector pay cap recommended by the government. The VC’s pay is twice the national VC average pay of 277,000 pounds, and higher than other institutions like Cambridge and Oxford. In other areas of top management, which is also part of the inquiry, 67 staff members are paid over 100,000 a year, 13 of which are over 150,000.

This inquiry has come after years- long outrage held by both staff and students alike at the University. Bath UCU and the Students’ Union passed motions of no confidence in the Remuneration Committee (The Universities and College Union which represents some academic and ‘academic-related’ staff on campus). In February of this year the SU, UCU, UNISON, (The Union for other workers on campus, administrators, cleaners, porters, bars, estates, accommodation and hospitality.) and Unite, (The Union that represents technical staff e.g. lab technicians, computing services and electricians.) took part in a lobby of the University Court. The University Court is the statutory body representing the interests of the University’s internal and external constituencies. It meets once a year. The action was an expression of joint action expressing concern. This was alongside other University stakeholders.

Following this, the unions sent a letter to the University Council, (The highest governing body in the University which is expected to hold management to account) requesting the suspension of decisions of the Remunerations Committee pending an immediate and thorough governance review. The letter was never responded to.

The coverage of the speech in the House of Lords has attracted lots of media attention, with BBC Points West running a segment on the issue and MPs speaking out. Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, stated that “the university has brought itself into disrepute” and declared the Vice Chancellor’s salary “morally indefensible”. B&NES Councillor Joe Rayment blamed the “Vice-Chancellor’s outrageous pay and perks” on “governance that is rotten to the core”.

The SU have joined forces with other unions in support of this investigation. The University are planning a governance review of University Council later this year. This will be with a focus on the Remuneration Committee. The SU’s aim is to have student representation on the Remuneration Committee with the overall, broad aim of transparency.

A spokesperson from the University of Bath said:

”We have been advised by HEFCE that they are looking into an allegation regarding a University meeting in February 2017. We are committed to the highest standards of governance and will be providing HEFCE with an information they request about how our remuneration process works, which is in line with practice at other universities.”

 The VC’s pay has become something of a joke across campus, representative of a leadership body that is out of touch and doesn’t care about long-held concerns of staff and students across campus. This inquiry remains a source of hope that there will be change to VC and other members of top management’s pay. A source of great anger and frustration held by many at the University for years.

This article has been updated to include the University comment. 

 

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About Author

Alisha Lobo is the Editor – in Chief of bathimpact. She writes about international politics with specific focus on the Middle East and India. She also reports on the University of Bath and the Students’ Union. She was the former News & Comment Editor of bathimpact (2015/16).

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