University head earns £384,000 a year as pension’s dispute steps up

The University of Bath’s Vice-Chancellor Dame Glynis Breakwell earns over twenty-six times more than the lowest paid permanent member of University staff, figures reveal.

The Vice-Chancellor, who acts as the chief executive of the University, is currently paid £384,000 a year according to official University financial statements, compared to the £14,520 minimum salary for permanent employees. This makes her the highest paid Vice-Chancellor in the country in relation to the University’s size. The average Vice-Chancellor in the UK is on a salary of £242,000.

The news comes as members of the University and College’s Union (UCU) continue an indefinite assessment boycott over proposed changes to the University Superannuation Scheme (USS), the pension scheme for academics and senior administrative staff, which they argue could see eligible empolyees “lose thousands of pounds in retirement”.

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University of Bath Vice-Chancellor Dame Glynis Breakwell

The University of Bath UCU branch claims that one in three of the University’s five hundred taught programmes will be affected in the next two weeks. They state that PhD transfers and visas are already being impacted.

Last week, the University of Bath took the decision to cut 25% from the salaries of UCU members taking part in the pension action for the duration of the boycott; a figure they claim represents the amount of time dedicated by academic and academic-related staff to assessment. This figure has been disputed by the UCU as “arbitrary.”

A University spokesperson said on the temporary 25% salary cut, “UCU nationally warned members on their ballot papers that taking industrial action might constitute a breach of their contract of employment. The University will not accept the partial performance of the contract of any member of staff. This means that members of UCU who decide to take part in the assessment and marking boycott are not entitled to their contractual pay from the date when they started to participate in the action.” (For full University statements on the UCU assessment boycott, Vice-Chancellor pay and wages, click here).

On Tuesday, University of Bath students voted in favour for the boycott in a poll organised by the Students’ Union. A total of 312 students, just under 2% of the body, voted in the poll – 57.7% for, 40.7% against and 1.6% abstaining.

The turnout is almost three times more than the recent indicative poll on whether the SU should support the ‘Free Education: No Fees, No Cuts, No Debt‘ student demonstration, taking place on the 19th November.

Jordan Kenny, the University of Bath­­ Students’ Union President, said on the poll, “An indicative poll does not represent a mandate of Bath Students’ Union, but is designed to inform Bath Students’ Union of the opinion of its membership. The outcome of the indicative poll will enable the Students’ Union Officers to develop an appropriate plan of action.”

Hedley Bashforth, the University of Bath’s UCU Secretary, says on the discrepancies in pay and pension, “The pensions people get usually reflect and often exaggerate inequalities of pay in working life.  For that reason, UCU supports a cap on pensions so that the pensions of high earners don’t run away from everybody else’s, just as their pay has done in the last ten years.”

“But just as important, we want to make sure that younger people enjoy the same – or better – entitlements to pension as older people.  The current proposals will cut pensions for younger people, which is why many older members of staff such as me – who won’t lose out on their pensions – are prepared to lose pay for taking action now to defend the pensions of people in the future.”

However, the University of Bath claims that the “action has potential to have a serious adverse effect on our students and in turn the reputation of our institution, and would increase over time, particularly if it continues for several weeks.”

The UCU claims that the boycott could effect one in three taught programmes in the next week.

The findings over the Vice-Chancellors salary build on a report released by the UCU in June, High Earners Report: the pay gap increases. The report claims that the Vice-Chancellor is now the sixth highest paid university head in the country. She moves to first place when the table is adjusted for university population.

The UCU also highlights that between 2011-13, the Vice-Chancellor received a salary increase of close to 35%, at a time when “the value of pay for most people in higher education has continued to fall as inflation has outstripped pay increases”.

Between 2011-13, most staff received a 1.5% pay increase at a time when the rate of inflation was at 3.1% per year.

A University of Bath spokesman said on the Vice-Chancellor’s pay, “The salary and conditions of service of our Vice-Chancellor are independently determined by a Remuneration Committee. Remuneration packages for Vice-Chancellors reflect what is required to recruit and retain individuals able to run complex, multi-million pound organisations operating in a highly competitive, global market.

“The remuneration committee takes on board a wide range of factors in coming to its decisions including the committee’s annual assessment of performance against targets relating to the University’s fulfillment of its strategic objectives, financial sustainability and overall reputation.”

In February 2014, David Willets, Minister for Universities and Science at the time, stated, “We are very concerned about the substantial upward drift of salaries of some top management. We want to see leaders in the sector exercise much greater restraint as part of continuing to hold down increases in pay generally.”

Changes to the USS structure are expected to help deal with the estimated £8 billion deficit in the £41.6 billion scheme. But the UCU has claimed that the figures used are “dodgy” and “misleading”, attacking the statistical methodology. The assessment boycott is taking place in 65 other universities

Last week the UCU put forward their proposals for reforming the USS which is now being looked at by Universities UK, who manages the scheme. The University of Bath says, “further meetings are scheduled in the coming weeks and we hope that a way forward can be agreed which prevents further potential damage to the provision of student learning and teaching here at Bath.”

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