The third of the Russell Group Vice-Chancellors got lockdown pay rises despite learning online
Student complaints reach record levels
A survey in February, when all Covid restrictions were dropped, found ‘blended learning’ was still prevalent on three quarters of campuses, prompting ministers and regulators to launch ‘on the ground’ inspections and to threaten fines.
Student complaints to the country’s Universities Ombudsman reached record levels last year, at 2,793 and £1.3million paid out in compensation.
While some vice-chancellors took voluntary pay cuts at the start of the pandemic, fifteen of them were quietly brought back to normal levels.
In the 2019-20 accounts, 12 vice-chancellors got a pay rise, and 11 in the 2018-19 accounts.
The top 10 universities to increase the pay of vice-chancellors last year were UCL, Oxford, Cambridge, Newcastle, Glasgow, Sheffield, Durham, Queen Mary, Leeds and Manchester.
Arabella Skinner of parent group UsForThem said: “It’s quite shocking…students are still expected to pay full tuition and often accommodation costs, while their educational experience is not what they paid for. For struggling students, it must feel like the vice-chancellors are cashing in while their education suffers.
Jo Grady, General Secretary of the University and College Union, said: “Vice-Chancellors already enjoy sky-high salaries, chauffeured cars and huge benefits, and it is frankly insulting that their salaries have gone up even further.
“For university staff whose salaries and pensions continue to be cut to the bone, this will be met with fury.
“These so-called leaders of our universities are being rewarded for their failure… No wonder they are seen as the villains of the whole industry.”
Apart from UCL, the biggest pay rises, including employer pension contributions, were the University of Leeds at £42,000, Durham University at £18,000 and the Newcastle University, at £13,000.
Professor Stephen Toope, the boss of Cambridge University, raised £7,000 to £475,000, while Professor Louise Richardson of Oxford got a raise of £2,000 to £459,000.
Most vice-chancellors had rent-free accommodation included in their salary, including up to £124,000 worth at Imperial.
The University of Exeter has presented its new boss, Professor Lisa Roberts, with a £24,000 bonus. New UCL chief Michael Spence received £25,000 in ‘relocation costs’, while the Cambridge boss received £5,000 for private medical insurance.
A spokesperson for the Russell Group said online ‘reverse conferencing’ would continue, but added: ‘Campus life has returned to normal and all of our universities have resumed in-person teaching, which remains at heart of the university experience.
“Students can expect seminars, small group classes and lab work to be taught in person, as well as a range of extracurricular activities, social events and support services on campus .
“The goal of our universities will always be to provide a high-quality teaching and learning experience for students, including adapting to new technologies, educational ideas and opportunities as they arise, as well as only by learning from what works well.