One in six universities refuse to answer FOI requests on Vice-Chancellors’ expenses

A REPORT compiled by the University and College Union (UCU) has revealed that, on average, Vice-Chancellors in the UK earn £260,000, while also spending thousands of pounds on first and business class flights and hotel accommodation.

However, 24 out of the 155 Higher Education institutions surveyed refused to respond to the UCU Freedom of Information request or used questionable exemptions to avoid releasing the information that was being asked for. UCU-logo

In a time of austerity with thousands of staff at universities across the UK are losing their jobs and taking strike action to secure a below-inflation 2 percent pay rise, 18 Vice-Chancellors enjoyed a salary increase of over 10 percent. On average, Vice-Chancellors were paid 6.4 times more than an average member of staff. The report also reveals that 20 institutions had more than 100 members of staff earning over £100,000 a year.

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt, stated that: “What has been most striking is the huge variation in universities’ responses to our requests for information. Too many institutions refused to provide any information on expenses and the majority showed a strong determination to keep the details of decisions on senior pay a closely-guarded secret. Many staff and students will be amazed at the size of Vice-Chancellors’ salaries, and at the largesse displayed by some university leaders when it comes to first class flights, hotels and other expenses. That this is happening in public institutions which are largely funded by the taxpayer and students makes the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding senior pay and perks a national scandal.”

From a local point of view, Aberystwyth University, whilst not as secretive as some of the other universities, invoked exemption code S12 which states that “To obtain the information would exceed the reasonable time limit to obtain information as set out in the FOI Act – more than 18 hours of one employee’s time or costing more than £450 to conduct the search”. This response was given to cover information surrounding the expenditure on flights by the Vice-Chancellor, the class of flights taken and expenditure on hotel accommodation.

The information that the University did provide to the UCU showed that the Vice-Chancellor’s total emoluments for the 2013-14 financial year totalled £243,000, which places Professor McMahon below the national average. This was down 3.6 percent from the 2012-13 financial year in which she received £252,000. Her salary was 7.1 percent higher than the average staff salary at Aberystwyth University, which percentage wise is higher than the national average. In terms of personal expenses, Professor McMahon claimed £1192.60, well below the average claim of £3,113. 20 institutions had more than 100 members of staff earning over £100,000 a year; Aberystwyth University had 3.