Invited by the University of Birmingham Conservatives, controversial backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg visited campus on Friday 9th March, speaking about his views on free speech, housing, mental health, Russia and tuition fees to a packed lecture theatre of around 300 students.Written by Erin Santillo & John Wimperis on 16th March 2018
Birmingham Students and Academics Protest VC Pay
UoB vice chancellor faces backlash over his pay following the resignation of the University of Bath's vice chancellor last month, Rhiannon Storer reports.
Following protests at the University of Bath over their vice chancellor’s pay package, more than 160 academics and fellow students are protesting over the high salary and remuneration received by the vice chancellor, Sir David Eastwood, and the high salary paid to senior management who work at the University of Birmingham.
This comes shortly after similar disputes at the University of Southampton where their vice chancellor, Sir Christopher Snowden, was on the remuneration committee that awarded him pay worth £433, 000.
UoB vice chancellor, Sir David Eastwood currently earns £426,000 a year, an increase of £10,000 from last financial year. This is three times the salary of British Prime Minister Theresa May who earns £150, 402 a year.
In an open letter, many academics across the University of Birmingham have questioned ‘the extraordinarily high pay of the vice chancellor of the University of Birmingham – Sir David Eastwood’ which ‘raises many of the same questions that were raised by the case of the recently-resigned vice chancellor of Bath – Dame Glynis Breakwell'.
“This is far higher than the £272,000 that is average for Vice Chancellors in the UK
The letter added: ‘Sir David was paid £392,000 in 2009. He has been paid £400,000, or more, since 2010, and was most recently reported as being paid £426,000 per year. This is far higher than the £272,000 that is average for Vice Chancellors in the UK.’
The letter also mentioned that while Sir David Eastwood earns such a staggering salary, many staff who work at the University of Birmingham are often contracted on zero hour or short-term contracts.
‘The University of Birmingham is not a Living Wage Employer. It is the ninth worst employer in terms of the gender pay gap for full-time academics. Within the Russell Group of universities, it is the university with the largest proportion of frontline teaching staff on short-term or zero-hours and other flexible contracts'.
“'The University of Birmingham is not a Living Wage Employer. It is the ninth worst employer in terms of the gender pay gap for full-time academics'
In the past, MPs and councillors have criticised the University of Birmingham for not paying the living wage, including Labour MP for Selly Oak Steve McCabe.
He said: ‘I support a living wage and think all decent employers should be encouraged to pay the living wage. It is a disgrace that the Chancellor has sought to undermine the concept by deliberately using the language of the living wage for his second-rate proposals'.
Staff at Birmingham hosted a demonstration on the 8th December in support of strike action over management practices and workload, where they were also joined by Bath university union representatives.
There was also a rally at Birmingham City University - who are facing similar cuts to departments despite the high salary of the vice chancellor – at the start of the month in a show of solidarity.
Elio Di Muccio - Anti-Casualisation officer for BUCU - who attended the protest said: ‘The proposal to cut the BCU department responsible for developing academic staff into great tutors by 34% is appalling and strategic nonsense. Forcing the same staff, who are specialists in their field, to reapply for their jobs on lower grades amounts to deskilling and casualisation'.
“'We must not let this debate dominate Higher Education discussions'
Ellie Keller, President of the Guild of Students has also commented on the issue: ‘When compared with lower paid staff the Vice Chancellor’s pay is staggering. However, we must not let this debate dominate Higher Education discussions'.
She added: ‘There are still students who cannot afford to eat whilst they study and students who are put off from university due to the maintenance grant cuts, the rising cost of living as well as ever increasing fees'.
The University of Birmingham has made a statement: ‘Professor Sir David Eastwood is recognised within the higher education sector as a highly successful and experienced leader of a large, complex organisation with global reach. The university contributes more than £3.5billion to the economy. It has more than 34,000 students, 7,000 members of staff, an annual turnover in excess of £650m, and assets of £1.2bn'.
Regardless of the monetary contribution that the university makes to the economy, it is apparent that the vice chancellor will continue to receive backlash over his pay while students continue to pay higher attendance fees and university staff remain on insecure contracts.