By Joe Harker
When it comes to running a university, how much is too much in terms of salary?
Although the chancellor would normally occupy a more senior role, most universities in the UK have a celebrity in the role who can come and perform certain duties from time to time whereas the vice chancellor is the one who actually sticks around and runs things. They make a lot of money doing so and with budget cuts and increased tuition fees there have been questions asking whether they deserve their large salaries.
Bath University is under the spotlight as its vice chancellor was awarded a pay rise to bring her salary to £468,000. Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell's salary has been reported by the BBC and has been met with criticism from many, including Bath's own academics. Thomas Sheppard, chair of the university's governing body, said that Bath University are "not embarrassed by what they pay her" due to her "stellar" leadership, though accepted that it was a high amount. Breakwell is the highest paid VC in the UK and has been in the position since 2001, when her annual salary was £155,000. She has since decided to take a sabbatical until 2019 when she plans to retire. She will be paid in full while on her sabbatical and denies that she has made the decision due to the reaction to her pay.
Dr Michael Carley is a senior lecturer in engineering at Bath University and criticised the vice chancellor for having such a high salary and accepting a pay rise far higher than other academic staff. He said: "She is paid too much. Nobody needs that kind of money.
"It's also a question of leadership. When she got 4%, we got 1.1%. If times are hard a good leader will set an example and say OK I won't take a pay rise."
Universities minister Jo Johnson wants universities to justify paying staff more than £150,000 a year after it was found that many Vice Chancellors were earning amounts over £300,000 a year. Universities have argued that their leaders have a huge amount of responsibility and thus deserve a large salary, but they may now have to answer to a regulatory body and explain exactly why some staff are being paid so much.
However, some vice chancellors have struck back at the criticism leveled against them. Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, has said that politicians have used "spurious" links when targeting their salaries. She said it was dishonest to suggest that universities use the tuition fees of £9,000 to increase the salaries of their top staff. She also said that compared to footballers and bankers earnings, vice chancellors were not overpaid, though admitted that she makes a lot of money compared to the academic staff at the university. Professor Richardson makes £350,000 a year and admitted that junior academic staff in particular are "very lowly paid".