Fury at Ulster University chief's £264k salary - increase of £14k as staff battle for pensions
University staff striking over their pension arrangements hit out in fury yesterday when it emerged that Ulster University chief Paddy Nixon is taking home a salary of £264,000 - an increase of £14,000 on his last reported salary of £250,000.
It was also revealed that the UU vice-chancellor's complete package, including pension and benefits, is £311,000.
The salary figures were revealed by the Times Higher Education yesterday, and came as university workers took part in the first day of four weeks of planned strike action over pension arrangements.
The publication also compiled salary figures for the vice-chancellor at Queen's University Belfast, although it warned the figures might be skewed because there was more than one vice-chancellor during the 2016-17 academic year. Vice-chancellor Patrick Johnston died suddenly last June. Professor James McElnay has been acting vice-chancellor since then.
Last month, Queen's said Professor Ian Greer from the University of Manchester had been appointed to the top role and will take over later this year.
The salary reported for the Queen's chief for 2016/17 was £261,000, and the complete package, including pension and benefits, was reported as £327,000.
The vice-chancellor salaries are the highest in the public sector in Northern Ireland. By comparison, the salary scale for the head of the Northern Ireland Civil Service is £148,652-£178,709.
However, the average salary for university chiefs across the UK last year was £268,000.
The new figures reveal that UK vice-chancellors saw their pay rise by just over £10,000 on average (4%) in 2016/17, nearly four times the 1.1% increase awarded to staff, and come amid growing concerns about spiralling pay for university bosses, with several high-profile figures, including ministers, calling for restraint. The University College Union (UCU) claimed last night that the "L'Oreal principle - 'because I'm worth it'" - has taken hold at the top levels of universities.
UCU President at Queen's, Dr Fabian Schuppert, branded vice-chancellor pay as "excessive, given the context of ongoing cuts in higher education".
"You couldn't make this stuff up," Dr Schuppert said. "Yesterday, on the day we commenced striking - because university leaders want to cut our pensions by up to 55% - we're being told that our vice-chancellors are earning more than ever, while all of these people tell the rest of us to tighten our belts, that we should be happy enough to face the possibility of poverty in old age. They're telling staff on precarious contracts that the universities can't afford to give them job security. And they're telling us that our pensions are unaffordable - even though they've budgeted for them in their own estimates. This is simply indefensible."
An Ulster University spokesperson said: "VC salaries are similar acro ss Higher Education, as you would expect in an increasingly competitive sector.
"This reflects the scale, complexity and impact of universities across research and teaching."
A spokesperson for Queen's said: "The vice-chancellor's salary is determined by the University's remuneration committee, a sub-committee of its governing body, senate. The vice-chancellor is expected to play a full leadership role within the university, within Northern Ireland and on the national and international stage and make a leading contribution to cultural, social and economic development in Northern Ireland."