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House of Lords in shock at size of Bath Vice Chancellor’s pay packet

On the same day that Lord Adonis launched a scathing attack on pay inequality in UK universities and the ‘greed’ of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Bath, the joint trades unions (UCU, Unite and UNISON) and Students’ Union wrote to all members of University Council calling on them to suspend the University Remuneration Committee pending a full and immediate review of its decisions and decision making processes.

Chris Roche (UNISON) a staff representative on University Council attended the meeting of Council that took place on July 13th, immediately after a private meeting of the Remuneration Committee to decide on senior management pay awards for next year. Their decisions were not communicated to Council. However, Chris did raise the issue in Council, and said the following:

Today I watched a debate in the House of Lords in which Lord Adonis, the former Minister of State for Education, gave a five minute speech that focussed almost entirely on senior management pay at the University of Bath. I won’t repeat it all but I do think members of Council ought to hear and reflect on the consequences of their actions, and inaction, in recent years. I appreciate this may not win me many friends in this room, but I think it needs saying. Lord Adonis asked:

“What does the Government intend to do to cut, or restrain the growth in, vice-chancellors’ pay?

Can I specifically refer to the University of Bath…Last year the vice-chancellor earned £406,000. This year, despite the 1.1% cap on pay for non-managerial staff across the higher education sector, the vice-chancellor’s pay rose by 11% to £451,000. On top of this, the vice-chancellor, Glynis Breakwell, earns £27,000 from three non-executive directorships, which she apparently has time to undertake alongside being a full-time vice-chancellor. She also has a large house in the historic centre of Bath a benefit in kind worth another £20,000 a year. Put all that together, and Glynis Breakwell is paid almost exactly half a million pounds, more than three times the Prime Minister’s salary.

My Lords, The University of Bath has a remuneration committee and governing bodies to decide these matters and prevent abuse. The problem, my lords, is that the governing Council is mired in controversy over this precise issue.

In February, after what I’m told was an intense debate, the University Court voted by the narrow margin of 33 votes to 30 not to censure the remuneration committee. However, that majority of three included, I am informed, the vote of the vice-chancellor herself and the very members of the remuneration committee whose conduct was in question.

My Lords, If this isn’t a case for HEFCE and the Government o intervene, I don’t know what is.

A final point, my Lords. The highly paid should set an example to the rest of the community, particularly at a time of pay restraint. The only example the vice-chancellor of the University of Bath is setting too her staff is one of greed. That is not my idea of a university; I doubt it appeals to your lordships either.

So I hope the Minister will tell us what the Government is going to do to stop it.”

This governing body has received warnings for years from the recognised representative bodies of staff, that the conduct of the remuneration committee and the decisions it has so consistently and predictably come to are not only a source of anger, de-motivation and lost good faith for staff and students, but also incredibly damaging to the reputation of the university, making our brand synonymous with greed and poor governance.

If the sight of a highly influential member of Parliament focussing on and calling for state intervention in our University does not result in a change of course, I dread to think what it will take.

Professor Davenport has circulated a letter from the trade unions and students’ union recommending that Council defer any decisions on high earners’ pay until after a prompt governance review is conducted. I suggest that Council accept that recommendation.

Lord Adonis has now made a formal complaint to the university regulator.

The decision on high earners’ pay will be made available to Council at the next meeting in October.

A round up of the news so far:

Greed of Bath Vice Chancellor (Huffington Post)
University of Bath “breaching guidance” on senior management pay (Bath Chronicle)

Lords in shock (Bath Chronicle)

How Greed Works (Bath Chronicle)
University Chief’s perks under fire (Times)
Vice Chancellors are paid too much says Lord Adonis (Guardian)
67 staff at Bath University earning more than £100k a year (Daily Mail)

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