Russell Group vice-chancellors received average pay rises of £20,000 last year

That’s triple the amount of other university staff

The heads of Russell Group Universities have been awarded average pay rises of 3.4 per cent – more than triple those given to other university staff.

The findings, from a survey by Times Higher Education, found that if payoffs for departing vice-chancellors are included, the figure rises to 5.9 per cent – an almost £20,000 increase on the previous year.

Vice-chancellors are now being accused of hypocrisy over what the Russell Group described as only “modest” pay increases given the scope and importance of their roles in leading complex international organisations.

The University of Birmingham were the worst culprit for pay rises for top staff

Director General of The Russell Group Wendy Piatt defended the pay rises, stressing “the importance of attracting and retaining experienced individuals who can demonstrate the highest calibre of leadership.”

However Sally Hunt, General Secretary of the University College Union, claimed that these pay increases were in fact evidence of poor leadership on the part of university heads.

She said: “(Russell Group Universities) have the worst records of putting staff on insecure casual contracts, so there is an even greater sense of injustice that there is one rule for those at the top, and one for everyone else.”

The University of Birmingham was the most generous to its head staff, awarding Vice Chancellor Sir David Eastwood a 2.4 per cent pay rise which brought his salary up to £426,000 in pay and benefits, while Sir Keith Burnett of Sheffield University saw his salary of £385,000 supplemented by a bonus of £33,296

The next highest paid vice-chancellor on the list was Sir Christopher Snowden of Southampton University, who was recruited from a similar role at the University of Surrey in 2015.

Sir Christopher receives a salary of £415,000 from the University of Southhampton, which also paid his predecessor Don Nutbeam £252,000, plus a bonus of £43,000 to retire a year earlier than he had planned.

Gill Rider, Chairwoman of the Southampton University council, said: “the salary is reflective of the quality and high level of expertise that (Sir Christopher) brings to the university.”

The increases come after calls in March from the government for “greater restraint” in the payment of university staff.

In a letter written to the Russell Group last march, Minister for Universities and Science Jo Johnson said that the government “remains concerned about the substantial upward drift of the salaries of some top management.”