A recent report released by the UCU (University College and Union) ‘Transparency at the top?’ has revealed that the Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell has received an increase in her salary by 11,000 pounds. This takes her salary package up to 406,000 pounds up from 395,000 pounds in 2014. Her salary package includes 17,000 pounds for maintenance, as well as a car loan amounting to 31,489 pounds.
The report is part of the union’s ongoing campaign for greater transparency at the top of UK universities. This comes amidst recent uproar on the cuts in maintenance grants, the high cost of student living and increased marketization of university and higher education.
In addition, the report shed light on other expenses claimed by Vice-Chancellors around the country. The average spent by Vice-Chancellors on flight travel is 8500 pounds. However, our Vice-Chancellor has spent 23,000 pounds travelling exclusively first and business class on all trips that she has made, spending close to three times more on average than other Vice-Chancellors in the country.
There has been an increased focus on the internationalisation of the university. This includes the recent appointment of Colin Grant heading the ‘Internationalisation Strategy’ of the university. It aims to diversify its strategy to include different groups of students, and not to be overly- reliant on one group as well as increasing the University’s international profile.
The University ‘takes its international partnerships very seriously’ as well as the significant money in tuition fees that international students bring in as well. It should also be noted that these ‘valued international partnerships’ were conveniently placed to the side when denying refugees scholarships earlier this month.
While this focus on internationalisation is the most obvious explanation of such costs incurred by the Vice- Chancellor it can be questioned her exclusive choice of class when travelling – first or business class. Considering the average travel in exclusively first/ business class travel was at 49.5% across the board of VCs who responded to the survey.
In addition to other perks of the job, the VC has been provided with accommodation in Lansdown Crescent, which she occupies. The property is currently ranked as the second most expensive Vice- Chancellor accommodation valued at 2.8 million pounds, a far cry from the type of student housing in Oldfield also commonly referred to as ‘the student ghetto.’
To put this in the perspective of us, the students, the VC currently earns roughly more than 300 times more than the lowest paid worker on campus. This disparity of income also sheds light on the increase of debt and the spiralling costs of living, particularly in a place like Bath, where students spend 110% of their grants on rent alone.
Her increase in pay has not been widely reflected by other members of her staff in the same period. Over the course of the 5 year period beginning in 2009-2010 the Vice- Chancellor’s pay has increased by 14% in comparison, to a 5% increase seen by other members of staff. The Vice-Chancellor’s pay is rising three times faster than other members of staff, and thus it begs the question of its justification.
In the process of reviewing the Vice- Chancellor’s pay the key performance indicators are not even disclosed to members of Council, bar the five individuals who make the decision on the Vice-Chancellor’s pay. This process must be made transparent, at least to the governing body.
However an important caveat to note is that although the Vice-Chancellor sits on the remuneration committee that negotiates salary packages, which provides an attempt at an explanation at the disparity in numbers in the article. She does leave the room when her own salary is discussed.
Michael Carley, the President of the Bath UCU committee stated, ‘The governance of universities has increasingly become business-minded, with greater power in the hands of Vice- Chancellor, which is not conducive to a well-functioning academic community. Vice-Chancellors have become a combination of Alan Sugar and Marie Antoinette. You’re hired; you’re fired; the rest can eat cake.’
In the past bathimpact has written on the increasing marketization of the university, or what is also known as ‘Business Bath’ a topic that has unfortunately, come up again with the recent agreement by the government to cut maintenance grants for home students, even being voted for by the MP for Bath, Ben Howlett.
SU President Jordan Kenny said, “The Vice-Chancellor’s salary and expenses are a significant point of contention for many students. When taken in relation to the issues our students currently face, from a complete lack of bed stock to inadequate infrastructure for students to find a place to study in the library the increases are an even tougher pill to swallow. In the current environment, both locally and in wider society, I strongly believe that leaders of Universities should only be receiving pay increases in line with other staff, demonstrating their commitment to the principles of the University itself stands by.”
There have been efforts made by the Students’ Union to curb the costs and fight back against this. With challenging costs on campus being part of their top ten plan for the year. This year there has been a focus on freezing costs and increasing transparency of where our money goes. In addition there has been a plan to freeze international student fees for their tenure at Bath.
Indeed efforts have been successful in the past, most notably securing the Living Wage for workers across campus to improve the situation. However, there still is a long way to go in reducing the significant financial pressure and stress of higher education in Bath that students face on an everyday basis.
In response to the article above the university has commented
“In line with practice across the Higher Education sector, the salary and conditions of service of our Vice-Chancellor are independently determined by the Remuneration Committee of the University Council.
“Remuneration packages for Vice-Chancellors reflect what is required to recruit and retain individuals with the skills and experience to run complex, multi-million pound, successful organisations such as the University of Bath, which operate in a highly competitive, global market.
“The property in Lansdown Crescent is owned by the University. Its uses include hosting events with visitors to the University such as Honorary Graduates and academics from partner Institutions. The Vice-Chancellor’s role includes travelling internationally on behalf of the University to develop links which enhance the impact of our research and other activities. The University’s strategy to develop international partnerships has generated significant new research funding and examples of international collaboration over the past three years.