Church universities: Lifting the lid on salaries

by
09 February 2018

So, what are the vice-chancellors of church universities paid? Pat Ashworth found out

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, Stephen Marston

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire, Stephen Marston

CHURCH universities have welcomed draft guidelines on senior pay issued by the Committee of University Chairs (CUC) last month, in response to calls for greater transparency over pay awards.

Public outcry followed the revelation last year that the Vice-Chancellor of Southampton University, Sir Christopher Snowdon, had received a pay package of £433,000 (while announcing 75 academic job cuts). At the University of Bath, the Vice-Chancellor, Dame Glynis Breakwell, had received £468,000.

The sums were disclosed in a report on pay and perks at the top of British higher education, published by the staff trade union, the University and College Union (UCU), against a background of rising tuition fees, and in the context of pay rises of consistently less than two per cent for rank-and-file staff.

Eleven vice-chancellors were identified as taking home more than £400,000 a year, and 54 were paid more than £300,000. When the report was published, the UCU secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Those at the very top in our universities need to rein in the largesse that embarrasses the sector, and the Government needs to enforce proper scrutiny of their pay and perks.

“Telling staff that there is no money for pay rises while signing off golden goodbyes worth a quarter of a million, or handing out pay rises in excess of ten per cent to 23 university heads, is quite outrageous.”

 

THE UCU called for the publication of an annual list of the pay and benefits of vice-chancellors in all institutions that receive public funding; for staff and student representation on every remuneration committee; and for minutes of these committees to be made public. The Minister for Higher Education at that time, Jo Johnson, also promised that senior pay would be brought under control by new regulations.

The CUC proposes a “fair remuneration code”, limiting vice-chancellors’ salaries to 6.4 times that earned by their academic staff. Institutions will be expected to reveal how much their vice-chancellor earns compared with the median pay of the overall workforce.

Universities that pay their heads more than 8.5 times the institution’s average salary will have to justify that decision publicly. Under the new code, vice-chancellors would be banned from sitting on the remuneration committees that decide their pay (as two-thirds do at present).

Chris Sayers, who chairs the CUC, said at the launch of the consultation on 9 January: “We must enshrine the values of transparency, fairness, and accountability at the heart of our procedures, to ensure we maintain the trust required for the long-term success of our world-leading sector. The draft guidance . . . balances these values with our sector’s need to continue to recruit and retain the best talent.”

The guidelines recognise that different institutions will need to recruit staff from different types of market — some global, some national, some local — and that they will want to take into account the state of the recruitment markets that they are operating in.

Suggested criteria for assessing the value of jobs include the scale and range of decision-making required; the impact on students, research, employees, partners, and citizens; levels of accountability and degree of autonomy; knowledge and skills; reputation and academic and professional credibility; an ability to recruit and retain key staff, and external comparisons.

 

THE 15 church universities (including one in Wales) are all members of the Cathedrals Group: Bishop Grosseteste; Canterbury Christ Church; Chester; Chichester; Cumbria; Gloucestershire; Leeds Trinity; Liverpool Hope; Plymouth Marjon; Newman; St Mary’s, Twickenham; Trinity St David; Whitelands (Roehampton); Winchester; and York St John. Eleven of these are Anglican foundations; one is jointly Anglican and RC; and three are RC.

They include among their staff some experienced and respected vice-chancellors. Professor Margaret House, at Leeds Trinity (RC), for example — appointed an OBE in the New year Honours list — leads the university on all strategic matters, and chairs the Cathedrals Group.

Leeds Trinity UniversityThe Vice-Chancellor of Leeds Trinity University, Professor Margaret House, in the Leeds Trinity atriumLeeds Trinity UniversityThe Vice-Chancellor of Leeds Trinity University, Professor Margaret House, in the Leeds Trinity atrium

Her ambitious five-year plan has meant that the university has achieved its highest student enrolment on record; more graduates achieving first- and upper-second-class degrees; and high levels of both graduate employability and student satisfaction.

She has always been transparent about her pay package of £193,328 (2016-17), which includes a salary supplement in lieu of an employer pension, and is one of the lowest in the sector.

All the church universities were contacted to confirm what the vice-chancellor was paid; whether they welcomed transparency and would be responding to the consultation; and whether the ethos of a Christian institution was a factor in setting pay levels.

 

ETHOS was the strongest determinant for Leeds Trinity, a Living Wage employer with a mission to support social mobility. “Our values of dignity, respect, social justice, and equality are embedded into the ethos of the institution. It is intrinsic to the nature of the university, and therefore all decisions at the Leeds Trinity are based around these values,” a spokesperson said.

Canterbury Christ Church already complies with most of the requirements of the draft CUC code, and will be responding to the consultation. Compliance is voluntary, but Christ Church believes that all the universities should comply, or should explain where they, exceptionally, are not able to meet specific technical requirements owing to their constitution. Universities needed to be sensitive to public opinion while also being transparent in explaining the basis of pay awards to vice-chancellors, a spokesperson said.

Its Vice-Chancellor, Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, was paid £257,000 for the financial year 2015-16: 5.5 times the average academic salary at the university. The Christian ethos was a factor in determining salaries at the top, the spokesperson confirmed. Senior staff were normally paid the national pay uplift for all staff (1.1 per cent in 2016-17), should their performance be judged excellent.

 

Gloucestershire’s Vice-Chancellor, Stephen Marston, was formerly director general for higher-education funding and reform within the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Like most of the vice-chancellors in the church universities, his remuneration of £193,000 is publicly available in the annual financial statements, but the university is also one of only a handful to publish total pay ratios as well, in recognition of its obligations around transparency.

In no year since Mr Marston’s appointment in 2011 has the Vice-Chancellor been awarded a pay increase higher than the national pay award for university staff. The ratio in 2015/16 was 4.63, compared with a UK average of 6.4. “The key issue for consideration is fairness, consistency, and equality, combined with the ability to reward excellent performance based on an assessment of the outcomes achieved,” a spokesman said.

 

AT CHESTER, Professor Tim Wheeler’s pay package as Vice-Chancellor is £276,000 per year. There are no additional pension contributions or other benefits. The ratio of his salary to that earned by the academic staff is approximately 4.9. Chester welcomes the consultation and the move towards transparency, and expects that all institutions that are members of the CUC will adopt the code.

While Chester says that it has to ensure that salaries are competitive to recruit and retain good-quality staff, its ethos means that it does not operate a system of performance-related pay (PRP) or bonuses. “The university sees its achievements as a collective enterprise involving all employees and does not favour a PRP system that could be seen as divisive or distorting priorities,” a spokesperson said.

The chief operating officer at Bishop Grosseteste, Steve Deville, confirmed that the university welcomed transparency, and believed that the code would be a useful guide for its future decision-making.

Canon Peter Neil’s total remuneration as Vice-Chancellor was £191,668 in 2017. “It would be reasonable to say that our Anglican heritage informs all of our work and decision-making; therefore, we see no reason why it should not do the same regarding this particular work/subject,” Mr Deville said.

A spokesman for the University of Chichester said in a statement: “The university already has a policy of transparency, and details of our senior pay are in the public domain. As a values-based institution, we are interested in the outcomes of the CUC consultation while respecting the right of individual universities to set their own salary levels.”

Chichester had a change of Vice-Chancellor in May 2017, when Professor Jane Longmore succeeded Professor Clive Behagg. His remuneration in 2016 was £197,662.

 

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Winchester, Professor Joy CarterTHE average total remuneration package in 2015-16 — salary, benefits in kind, bonuses, and pensions — among vice-chancellors was £277,84. Three vice-chancellors of church universities are paid more than this: Professor Gerald Pillay, at Liverpool Hope, whose total package is £313,875; Professor Paul O’Prey, at Roehampton, on £312,000; and Professor Joy Carter, at Winchester, who earns £294,519.

Winchester, which was shortlisted for University of the Year 2017 in the Times Higher Education awards, has nearly doubled in size since Professor Carter joined as Vice-Chancellor in 2006, and has won numerous awards and accolades under her leadership.

Liverpool Hope — where senior pay is benchmarked against a group of similar higher-education institutions with a similar profile and history — is the highest-placed church university in The Complete Universities Guide’s UK rankings, coming in at 59. Roehampton comes in at joint 69, and Winchester at 85.

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