Pay rises stall for v-cs as rank-and-file staff face freeze

Alice Gast emerges as top-paid leader among Russell Group

January 21, 2022
Alice Gast
Alice Gast, president of Imperial College London

UK universities appear to have been very conscious that inflated pay rises for vice-chancellors would not be a good look during a pandemic and avoided major rises during 2020-21, according to the initial set of financial accounts to be published.

Among the 15 institutions of the Russell Group of large research-intensive universities to have released accounts by early January, no vice-chancellors who were in post for the whole of 2019-20 saw their basic salary rise. And some also took a Covid-related cut to their pay to leave their overall remuneration down on the year before.

When allowing for these salary cuts, the highest paid leader in the group, according to accounts released so far, was Alice Gast, president of Imperial College London, who received total remuneration including benefits of £519,000.

She was followed by Minouche Shafik, director of the London School of Economics, whose total remuneration was £486,000, Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge (£475,000), and Louise Richardson at the University of Oxford (£459,000).

According to the accounts, Professor Gast took a salary cut of £18,000 in 2020-21 due to the pandemic, while Baroness Shafik took a 20 per cent salary cut each month until February 2021. Both saw their overall remuneration fall as a result.

Others in the group, including Professor Richardson, did not take a Covid-related cut but, in line with rank-and-file staff whose pay was frozen in 2020-21, received no bonuses or increase in their basic salary.

However, extra payments were not completely absent from the accounts.

As previously reported, a retention bonus of more than £100,000 promised to outgoing University of Exeter vice-chancellor Sir Steve Smith, was paid on his departure at the end of August 2020. He is also due to receive another similar payment this year if he does not work for any other institution.

Outside the Russell Group, one of the best paid leaders in the sector remains London Business School dean François Ortalo-Magné, whose overall remuneration rose 16 per cent in 2020-21 to £577,000, although this percentage increase reflects him waiving £120,000 of his salary the year before.

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Reader's comments (5)

"He is also due to receive another similar payment this year if he does not work for any other institution." - What a joke ! 100,000 for not working! What exactly would happen if he works for another institution?!
Meanwhile, academic staff is casualised... told there's no money to extend contracts or hire staff to deliver courses and projects... all because of... Covid and/or Brexit/fewer students. Haha!
Would anybody miss them if we didn't have them ? For the same money we could employ at least 10 'real' staff doing a full week of productive work. Which would benefit the institution more ?
It is disgraceful given it requires far greater skill to be an academic than to be a manager. The pay should be no higher than it is for professors which is currently about £70k.
It is just theft as they get to decide their own pay. Anyone deciding their own pay always takes as much as they can politically get away with. These managers are either failed academics or failed managers from some other industry.