New UCL Provost raised fees by four grand at his last uni and took home £900k a year

UCL’s new provost Michael Spence was taking home $1.6million AUD which is the equivalent to £910,000


UCL has just welcomed its new provost Dr Michael Spence, who has just moved from the University of Sydney to take up the position.

During his previous tenure as Vice-Chancellor, Spence was an advocate of raising fees to increase the financial aid programme at the University of Sydney.

While the VC was overseeing raises to tuition fees of over $8,000 per individual students, in order to fund an increase in scholarships, he was also being paid $1.6million AUD a year.

Prior to coming to the UK, Dr Spence was one of the highest-paid university employees in Australia. He was making $1.6million which is the equivalent to £910,000 annually. By contrast, every major UK VC or Provost made a salary coming in under £600,000 annually. Whilst both of these sums are enormous that is a disparity of over a quarter of a million pounds.

Whilst making his hefty wedge, Spence was in favour of the Australian deregulation of university fees. This enabled universities to lift the cap on the maximum charge for student fees. In some instances, this will mean that university fees can increase by 100 per cent.

The motion initially came about to help provide need-based scholarships for students. In the case of the University of Sydney Dr Spence proposed the extra fees would help support the financial aid programme creating a “fairer and more diverse student population”.  However, 77 per cent of students opposed the decision to raise fees at all because it would make them more difficult for the majority to pay off.

Andrew Norton, a scholar at the Grattan Institute Think Tank, criticised the move to increase fees.

“The policy seems to be that extra fees paid by two-thirds of its students will fund cash handouts and debt reductions for one-third of its students,” Norton said. “This isn’t going to help convince most prospective students that potentially much higher fees represent value for money.”

Spence during his tenure as Vice-Chancellor was pro cutting down on arts subjects to save money. 30 per cent of courses in the School of Social and Political Sciences are expected to be cut. However, the president of the University of Sydney branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, Michael Thomson said: “This university has loads of money, it’s got lots of students and it’s going to increase those student numbers next year – slightly not massively – but at the moment the university is busting at the seams; lecture halls are overfull, and staff are overworked and under-resourced”

Whilst his Aussie salary was at the very top of the scale, a UCL spokesperson said: “The salary of UCL’s President & Provost Dr Michael Spence is £365,000 per annum. This salary has been benchmarked and set against other world-leading UK universities, including Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial. Dr Spence has taken a pay cut so his salary is in line with these peer universities.”

A spokesperson from the University of Sydney said:

“Australian VC salaries are a package (not just salary) – they commonly include a house, car, driver etc. 

“These things are not included in UK VC salary packages therefore the difference in salaries between UK and Australia are distorted by these different reporting requirements.

“The Vice-Chancellor did propose to increase fees if the sector was deregulated but to a level still less than that students in the UK currently pay. But a significant proportion of those additional funds were to go to scholarships which would have meant that 25% of undergraduates at Sydney would have been paying less than they currently pay – it was a scheme to help the most disadvantaged.”

The Tab has approached Dr Spence for comment.