University bosses criticised for pay rises

By Mathew R Johnstone

University principals in Scotland received a controversially high pay rise last year.

Recent reports have revealed that university heads were paid an average of 4% more in 2012/13 than in the previous year.

Strathclyde University’s own principal Professor Sir Jim McDonald took a rise of 5%, becoming the highest paid university principal in Scotland in the process and earning more annually than the Prime Minister.

News of these above-inflation pay rises comes when academics and other staff are striking over a 1% increase in their pay, which universities claim is all that is available.

These new figures have led to claims that top-level staff are out of touch.

Strathclyde Labour Club condemned the pay rises, with the Chair of the group Billy McCauley saying: “They come at a time when people are feeling their incomes squeezed, the cost of living is rising and rising. It is a kick in the teeth to students at Strathclyde, who are feeling that squeeze and who’ve seen courses cut and department budgets affected.”

However, Professor McDonald’s rise was not the highest increase, with Professor Steve Chapman from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh receiving £40,000 more in pay and bonuses.

A spokesperson from Heriot-Watt said: “the principal’s salary reflected the outstanding successes of the university.”

The figures seem to contradict the recommendations of a 2012 report by Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Principal at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, in which he calls for pay increases to stop until “processes have been reviewed.”

The report also suggests that students should be present in committees that determine salary.

Strathclyde Student President Kwaku Adjei said: ‘It would be good to have the student voice on such committees. Students are huge stakeholders in the higher education sector so it’s important that our views are taken in to account’.

Mr Adjei also said that is was “correct to question pay rises to senior members of staff when others are only offered a 1% increase”, but denied that the disparity in pay reflected badly upon the university as a whole, saying: “We have great community here at Strathclyde – we also have great staff here that adds to the student experience as highlighted in the Teaching Excellence Awards.”

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