Bristol MPs, Darren Jones and Kerry McCarthy, have resigned from positions at Bath University in protest at its vice chancellor’s £451,000 salary.
The two Labour politicians spoke out this week about the injustice of top executives receiving such “bloated pay packets” at a time when staff face austerity measures and students are being saddled with crippling debts of more than £60,000.
Jones, the newly elected parliamentary representative for Bristol North West, was the fourth MP to quit the university’s court – a statutory forum representing the interests of stakeholders – amid growing unrest about over-inflated salaries of senior staff.
He blasted the decision to boost the salary of vice chancellor professor Dame Glynis Breakwell up to £451,000, an 11 per cent increase, saying it is excessive.
“Students in my constituency are paying increasingly high tuition fees, with many families helping their children out with the costs associated with going to university,” said Jones.
“Vice chancellors’ pay needs to be set within the context of value for money. And students take on excessive debt to get a good education, not to pay bloated executive pay.”
The string of resignations comes against a backdrop of increasing national outrage at the salaries of university bosses and former Labour education minister Andrew Adonis is calling for the Government to launch an inquiry into executive pay.
As MP for Bristol East, McCarthy, represents some of Bristol’s poorest neighbourhoods and pledged support for Adonis’ campaign in her resignation letter, adding that it is students and academic staff who are bearing the burden of austerity.
In a joint statement with the MP for Stroud, David Drew, McCarthy said: “We do not think a salary of £450,000 can be justified, especially when students are taking on debts of £60,000 to pay fees, and spending 30 years of their working lives paying them off.”
Breakwell is one of the highest earning vice chancellors, but the storm unleashed by her pay boost has opened up a can of worms across the board, with accusations that students are paying to inflate the pay packets of university bosses.
The vice chancellor of Bristol University Professor Hugh Brady currently receives £282,472, plus £42,207 per year in lieu of pension contributions, which is provided on a basis that is cost neutral to the university.
The university defends the six figure sum on the basis that as a leading research institution and a major driver of prosperity in the region, it has to offer a competitive salary to attract the best person to lead the large and diverse organisation.
Professor Steve West, the vice chancellor of the University of the West of England, Bristol was paid £315,269 in 2015/16, including pension costs.
The Higher Education and Funding Council for England (Hefce) is investigating the University of Bath’s remuneration policy.
A spokesperson for Bath University said: “We are providing HEFCE with all the information they have requested including in relation to meetings of University Court. The University does not intend to comment further on these matters until such time as HEFCE have concluded their investigation.”