Vice-Chancellor defends £365,000 salary

Beatrice McCartney 14 October 2017

Professor Stephen Toope, the new vice-chancellor, is facing criticisms over his pay. Professor Toope, defending his £365,000 pay packet, which is more than double that of the Theresa May’s, has told The Times that it is ‘reasonable, given the scope of the job’. 

The challenge to Professor Toope’s pay has come after the warning earlier this month from Jo Johnson, universities minister, that institutions will be fined if they are unable to justify paying their vice-chancellor more than £150, 000 a year, urging vice-chancellors to ‘embrace accountability’. Others, including Sir Michael Barber, chairman of the Office for Students, have urged vice-chancellors to cut their own salaries to restore public confidence. 

On the possibility of moves to cut vice-chancellors’ pays in order to silence critics, Toope said ‘I think it is not a good idea, to be frank, because what it does is reaffirm the sense that the UK is not operating in the open market for global talent.’

The average salary for a university vice-chancellor is £257,904, which has been seen as unreasonable when many students will be leaving university with about £50,000 of debt.

Toope argued that his salary was justified: “I am essentially responsible for £1bn a year turnover, 11,000 employees, 19,000 students, and am in the lead to complete a £2bm fundraising campaign, which means I am searching for all possible sources of income, while developing the international reputation of the university, working with business, government and civil society to develop partnerships, while being responsible for operations and the entity of the university”.  

The news comes as Toope opened Jesus College's new West Court, alongside the Earl of Wessex. The two perfomed together in a performance of Arthur Miller's The Crucible while both attended the college.

Other vice-chancellors have recently come under pressure to take salary cuts, notably Oxford University’s vice-chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, who receives a £350,000 salary. She branded politicians who criticised the policy as “tawdry”, with their comments damaging the sector.

Toope also aired his view that, if handled poorly, a review of student fees could damage the high global standing of UK universities, but also questioned the 6.1% interest rate on student loans when commercial interest rates are much lower.