Strikes, expenses and salary: Here’s everything you need to know about our new Vice-Chancellor Koen Lamberts

He will replace Keith Burnett this autumn

The University of Sheffield announced this week that Koen Lamberts will be our new President and Vice-Chancellor.

Lamberts is currently Vice-Chancellor at the University of York, but will leave on 31st October to replace retiring Sheffield VC Keith Burnett.

Here's what you should know about our new Vice-Chancellor, as the uni prepares to begin a new chapter under his leadership.

Born in Belgium, Koen has been a lecturer at both Birmingham and Warwick

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A British/Belgian psychologist and academic, Koen has been the Vice-Chancellor of the University of York since January 2014.

He has degrees in Philosophy and Psychology, as well as a PhD in Experimental Psychology, and has researched and lectured at Chicago, Birmingham and Warwick, where he went on to be Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

Koen has been awarded prizes from the Experimental Psychology Society and the British Psychological Society for both experimental and theoretical research on human memory and perception.

He wrote about the need to make 'tough decisions' over university staff pensions

In a blog post for Universities UK on 3rd October 2017, Lamberts said of the ongoing staff pensions dispute:

"The latest monitoring deficit recorded in the USS annual report is £12.6bn, up from £10bn in 2016. To protect the interests of current and future USS members, universities must address this deficit.

"Pension costs and risks need to be controlled, so that promises made today do not preclude universities from offering good pensions to employees in the future. With a deficit this large, doing nothing is not an option.

"Shortfalls in USS funding has already led to scheme reforms in recent years, including higher employer and member contributions and benefit changes.

"Scheme reforms driven by funding pressures are challenging, and there has already been some public speculation about how universities might deal with the issue – from the inconceivable prospect of raising tuition fees to address the deficit, to increased pension contributions from employers and scheme members, to further benefit reforms. With everyone involved, we must make some tough decisions if we are to find a long-term solution to the challenges facing our pension scheme."

Koen could earn £120,000 more at Sheffield than York

Lamberts could earn a pay increase of over £120,000 in his new role – Sheffield pay their Vice-Chancellor £426,589 per year, in comparison to York's £293,978 salary. Vice-Chancellor salaries across the UK range from £238,199 at Oxford Brookes to Bath Spa's £808,000.

In the year 2016/17, Koen's expenses were over £20,000

According to Imperial College London newspaper Felix, Koen's expenses across the 2016/2017 academic year came to £20,743.20, the second highest expenses bill of any Russell Group university Vice-Chancellor. However, this is probably due to his salary at York being considerably lower than that of Keith Burnett.

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Photo credit: Felix Online

'We will withhold pay from members of staff who participate in industrial action'

Koen and other senior figures at York were the focus of controversy in 2014, when University of York bosses decided to withhold pay from striking staff over a pension dispute.

A petition directly addressed to him read: "Your threat to dock 100 per cent pay on a continuous basis – which amounts to nothing less than old-fashioned union-busting – might be expected of a nineteenth century mill owner, but it has absolutely no place in a university system which, quite rightly, values collegiality."

The university said: “We do not recognise partial performance of contractual duties and will withhold pay from members of staff who participate in industrial action."

In the pension strikes this year, the university also withheld at least some staff pay, and "committed to spending all withheld staff pay on initiatives that would benefit students".

York Uni management attempted to disrupt occupiers in March by keeping lights on

In March, a group of University of York staff and students occupied Heslington Hall in support of the strikes. They claimed that uni bosses tried to disrupt their protest by not letting them turn off the lights in order to sleep – pictures circulated of staff and students in makeshift blindfolds.

Occupiers claimed that management backed down and turned off the lights as soon as word started to spread on social media.

While its ranking has varied, York has stayed in the top 150 universities in the world

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The latest QS University Rankings show that York has consistently ranked in the world's top 150 universities for over half a decade. It comes in at 134th in the latest table, with a recent peak of 103rd in 2016.

Gowns will be free at York's next two graduation ceremonies to make up for cancelled lectures

This email was sent to York students on 21 June:

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Koen is chair of the Employers Pension Forum (EPF)

This is one of several significant positions that Koen holds. A popular Twitter thread posted in March described him as "a key figure…behind the drive to end the Defined-Benefit USS Pension Scheme".

He feels 'enormously privileged' to be the new Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield University

In a press release published on the University website, Koen said:

"Sheffield is known across the world for the excellence, impact and distinctiveness of its research and teaching, and for being a university which speaks fearlessly for the value of international scholarship to transform lives for the better.

"I am committed to working with colleagues to further enhance Sheffield's reputation as a global university which strives to solve society's greatest challenges at the same time as upholding its proud history, guided by its founding principles.

"At its heart, Sheffield is a civic university for the 21st century and I am looking forward to working with partners in the Sheffield City Region."

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