£426,000 wage ‘reflects role of respected leader’, says University of Sheffield

Yorkshire university vice-chancellors' salaries are laid bare.
Yorkshire university vice-chancellors' salaries are laid bare.
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As Yorkshire’s university vice-chancellors’ salaries are laid bare, institutions across the county come to the defence of their leaders’ pay packets, all of which are higher than the Prime Minister’s. Nina Swift reports.

The University of Sheffield has defended vice-chancellor Sir Keith Burnett’s huge £426,000-a-year salary, stressing the wage reflected the importance of having a highly respected leader to run the “large and complex” organisation which has a £600m annual turnover.

The salaries for the region’s vice-chancellors have been revealed by The Yorkshire Post, with figures showing the average annual wage was just over £253,000, rising to £282,000 once employer contributions are added.

Sir Keith, who announced his retirement last week, is the highest-earning university vice-chancellor in the region. In 2016/17 he received a bonus of £33,999 and benefits of £3,301.

In a statement, the University of Sheffield said: “Sir Keith is one of the most senior and long-serving vice-chancellors in the Russell Group and in addition to his role, he is a respected leader in education and science nationally and internationally. Over the past year he has acted as a board member of HEFCE, been elected to the Council of the Royal Society and as President of the UK Science Council. He also leads the Science and Innovation strategy for the Sheffield City Region and serves on the Prime Minister’s Advisory Council for Science and Technology.

“Bonus payments are determined on the delivery of stretching objectives and in the last year the university has experienced a period of real success.”

The University of Huddersfield’s Bob Cryan took home a basic salary of £314,613 in the 2016/17 academic year, which increased to £371,243 when the employer pension contribution was added. The previous year he was paid £311,190 – £364,564 including pension payments. This is despite the University of Huddersfield sitting in 72nd place in the national rankings, according to The Complete University Guide.

A spokesperson for the university said: “The pension contribution made for the VC is the same percentage of salary as for any member of university staff in the same scheme. Professor Cryan’s expense claims are published on the university website and are among the lowest in the sector. When he travels on business he does not travel business class or first class. He does not live in university-owned accommodation, have a university car or private medical insurance and he does not take payments for serving on external boards.”

Universities across the region have justified the pay, with the University of Bradford revealing vice-chancellor Professor Brian Cantor has for some years given £10,000 of his salary back to the university and this year turned down a 1.7 per cent pay rise.

Sheffield Hallam said Professor Chris Husbands’s pay was below the average for UK vice-chancellors despite the vast size of the institution, stating: “Universities need to offer competitive salaries in order to attract quality leaders, with experience of successfully leading complex organisations.”

Hull also referred to its large size, stressing that remuneration was on par with similar institutions. Referring to the outgoing vice-chancellor Professor Calie Pistorius’ £74,000 retirement payout, it said it was not uncommon for terms of departure to be set upon appointment.

York echoed the statement and said Professor Koen Lamberts’ salary was one of the lowest in the Russell Group, with an increase in pay “aligned with a period of growth for the university”.

‘Rises in line with inflation’

Universities in Yorkshire’s biggest city have defended the salaries of their vice-chancellors.

Leeds Trinity said Professor Margaret A House’s wage remained significantly below the national average.

Leeds Beckett stressed that it was one of the largest institutions in the country and Professor Peter Slee’s only rise was in line with inflation.

The University of Leeds – part of the prestigious Russell Group of 24 research-focused universities – set out its list of impressive accolades achieved since Sir Alan Langlands took up his post in 2013, during which time he has received only one salary increase in line with inflation.