Former education minister Lord Andrew Adonis has launched a scathing attack on university bosses over their “greed”, claiming some are being paid “more than three times the Prime Minister’s salary”.
Speaking in the House of Lords this afternoon [Thursday], Labour peer Adonis demanded that the government intervened to tackle the problem.
The former advisor to Tony Blair singled out the University of Bath in particular, a “middle-ranking university... that has barely the fifth of the income of the University of Cambridge”, claiming much of this money comes from tuition fees and state research grants.
According to financial statements, following an 11% pay rise Bath’s vice chancellor Dame Glynis Breakwell now earns £451,000 - the highest salary of any uni boss in the UK.
In addition to this, Adonis said, Breakwell takes home £27,000 a year from non executive directorships “which she apparently has time to undertake alongside being a full time vice chancellor”.
“She also has a large house in the historic centre of Bath, a benefit in kind worth £20,000 a year.
“Put all that together and Glynis Breakwell is paid almost exactly half a million pounds - more than three times the prime minister’s salary,” Adonis claimed.
Continuing his speech, the Labour Lord said: “The highly paid should set an example, particularly at a time of pay restraints.
“The only example that the vice chancellor of the University of Bath is setting her staff is one of greed. That is not my idea of a university.”
Adonis’ attack is not the first time Breakwell has been criticised for her earnings. The uni boss came under fire last year after an FOI revealed that, despite her impressive salary, she claimed £20,000 in expenses in 2016 - including £2 for a packet of biscuits.
But it was not just the vice chancellor at Bath University that was the target of Adonis’ ire.
According to the former MP, 67 members of staff are currently paid more than £100,000, with 13 of these earning in excess of £150,000 a year.
While the university has a renumeration committee that determines pay, Adonis said it was “mired in controversy over the issues”.
Reading a letter sent to him by a member of staff, he addressed the House: “I find the failure of governance and un-checked self-serving senior management to be a source of nauseating embarrassment and inevitable reputational harm to a university otherwise composed of wonderful, hard-working and dedicated staff and students.”
Adonis’ comments come amid a national debate about university tuition fees, which are set to reach £9,250 at the start of the new academic year in September.
An IFS report released last week revealed that many student from poor backgrounds are leaving university with debts of £57,000, while high-earning graduates are facing interest rates of 6.1%.
But a spokesperson for Bath University defended Breakwell’s pay.
They told HuffPost UK: “The salary and conditions of service of our vice chancellor are independently determined by the remuneration committee of our University Council and are comparable with that of long-standing vice-chancellors in other successful universities.
“The increase reported in the 2015-16 accounts reflects her excellent track record and the confidence placed in her leadership of the senior team and the wider university community.”
Meanwhile, Conservative Lord Michael Bates, who Adonis addressed his statement to, said the government had no plans to intervene on university pay - despite acknowledging that “the house will have been in some state of shock as he [Adonis] read out the numbers”.
“Universities are autonomous and independent institutions and responsible for setting their own pay for staff,” Bates said. “As such, government does not have pay controls in place for university staff.”
However, he vowed to relay Adonis’ concerns to his colleagues.