Universities’ secrecy row

Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of Sheffield University.
Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of Sheffield University.

Lecturers are accusing Sheffield University of excessive secrecy over its decision to increase its vice-chancellor’s salary by 39 per cent.

The University and College Union is compiling a UK-wide report into how the wages of senior academics are decided.

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor of Sheffield University, saw his pay rise to £374,000 a year in 2013, while his counterpart at Sheffield Hallam University, Prof Philip Jones, saw his salary stay at £246,000.

The UCU asked to see the minutes of the remuneration committees – a small sub-group tasked with setting senior pay rates.

However, Sheffield University refused to release the minutes, while Hallam failed to respond to the request.

Nationally, two-thirds of universities also refused to release similar information.

The UCU is currently in a long-running dispute over a 1 per cent pay offer which it says equates to a salary cut for the fifth year in a row.

Mark Oley, UCU regional officer, said: “Millions of pounds of public money are spent on vice-chancellors’ salaries, yet their pay rise is decided behind closed doors with no accountability.

“Students and taxpayers have a right to know why so much of their money is going on paying vice-chancellors.”

A Sheffield University spokeswoman said: “Matters which are considered to be commercially sensitive are not publicly shared, something that is standard practice.”