Belfast Telegraph

University of Ulster pays 65 staff at least £100k a year

Ulster University’s new campus in Belfast city centre
Ulster University’s new campus in Belfast city centre
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

An Ulster University lecturer has criticised the institution's "galling" spending after it emerged 65 staff were paid at least £100,000 each year.

Right-wing pressure group the TaxPayers' Alliance (TPA) announced the finding after submitting Freedom of Information requests to 120 universities across the UK.

This showed 56 staff at Ulster University earned £100,000 a year or more, with nine earning £150,000 or more.

It is understood that salary information for Queen's University Belfast was not published because the institution's response to the Freedom of Information request did not include details on pension contributions.

Queen's University was asked for further information yesterday but was unable to provide it.

Architecture lecturer Lindesay Dawe, the branch secretary for the University and College Union (UCU), said Ulster University should be spending more money on the front line.

"In some ways it doesn't surprise me or the UCU," Mr Dawe added.

"What would really gall members and staff at Ulster University is that we're constantly being told there isn't money available for replacing staff like those who took early retirement.

"The other thing that comes into it is the Belfast campus development, which is putting a huge strain, we understand, on the university budget.

"To be honest, when you look at that project, the union's view at Ulster University is that the project has been handled really badly and the way public money has been squandered on that is quite shocking we think.

"The pay figures being reported (by the TPA) are on the list of expenditure that we would like to understand.

"What really galls members of staff is, if you look at where money is being spent, it's not being spent at the front line.

"I worked in the private sector before coming into academia. Big multinational companies understood that staff was where it's important to spend their money, but the university doesn't seem to see it that way. It's really beginning to wear staff down."

Ulster University said: "Ulster University and its staff make a significant social, economic and cultural contribution, nurturing our students to achieve their career ambitions, helping our community to thrive and confidently supporting Northern Ireland's local and international ambitions.

"In an increasingly competitive sector, senior academic and leadership gross salaries, inclusive of employer costs, reflect the scale, complexity and impact of higher education across research, teaching and business operations.

"The skills of both academic and specialist professional roles are crucial to ensuring the best operating environment, in which the university's academic ambitions will thrive.

"Working collaboratively, the university's senior leaders are providing world-class teaching and learning opportunities for students locally and internationally, widening participation in higher education and delivering meaningful research with real-world impact."

Kieran Neild, grassroots assistant at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said fee-paying students had a right to know if they were getting value for money.

"These rankings shine a light on the thousands of university administrators taking home very plush pay packets," he added.

"Taxpayers and students will be left with a degree of uncertainty over whether this money is being well spent, particularly when left-wing professors are so keen to lecture them about the evils of inequality.

"Instead of constantly complaining about faculty budget cuts, university bosses need to get their bumper wage bills under control and focus on providing their students with the very best higher education they can."

The TPA contacted 120 UK universities, with 115 responding. The group said an average of 3,615 staff were paid over £100,000 each year between 2016 and 2018.

It was reported that the University of Edinburgh had the most high earners, with 335 receiving over £100,000 and 118 earning over £150,000.

Ulster University was ranked 25th out of 115 for staff earning at least £100,000, ahead of Strathclyde and Bath.

Universities are funded by both taxpayers and students, including graduates.

The TPA previously claimed this mixed form of funding has "spared them the scrutiny" usually applied to other institutions.

The research also suggested the "soaring" levels of higher pay showed only a small correlation between the number of highly paid staff at a university compared to student satisfaction and employment rates.

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