Research conducted by The Guardian has revealed that vice-chancellors across the UK are paid significantly more than others in executive positions across the public sector, including senior figures of NHS hospital trusts and local authorities in several cities.
The study, which looked at figures across the 2015-16 financial year, shows that the salaries of chancellors at Bath, Southampton, and Sheffield (alongside London’s Imperial College as well as both Oxford and Cambridge) are all significantly more than £300,000 per annum, with only Cambridge’s Sir Leszek Borysiewicz earning below the £350,000 threshold. The former two, Dame Glynis Breakwell and Sir Christopher Snowden, both claimed over £400,000.
The University of Birmingham’s own vice-chancellor, Sir David Eastwood, came under special fire for his basic salary of £378,000, over double the £185,000 earned in the same year by the chief executive of Birmingham City Council.
While this is a trend across the entire pool surveyed by The Guardian, Birmingham’s council is the largest local authority in Europe and has a gross annual expenditure of over £3bn. By contrast, last year the University reported a total expenditure of just £604m, with just over half this figure comprising staff costs for Birmingham’s 7000-strong employees.
Eastwood also earns additional income through the Universities Superannuation Scheme, a UK-based pension scheme of which he is the chairman and for which he receives £90,000 per annum. The scheme in question came under fire in 2017 as a result of the Panama Papers leak, which revealed it to have offshore investments in a Bermuda-based private equity.
The vice-chancellor is also a board member of Universities UK, the group at the centre of the current nationwide dispute over staff pensions that has seen lecturers taking strike action at over 60 universities in the last month.
The University of Birmingham is not taking part in this action due to low turnout in a vote conducted in January – although this has not stopped Eastwood from being scrutinised in recent weeks as a result of his pay.
Members of the student body used the Guild of Students’ recent Vice Chancellor Question Time event to take him to task over his ‘extortionate’ income, with one student claiming that Eastwood had ‘misled’ the council office that sets his salary and calling for his resignation. He responded by claiming to be ‘a significant contributor to higher education and charities,’ and added that much of his salary is redirected to philanthropic endeavours. Eastwood is yet to comment on the finer details of this philanthropy and has not yet made a statement in response to this latest study.