Tag Archives: VC pay


2018 saw the demise of the University Court, one of Lancaster’s oldest and most diverse decision-making bodies.

The University Court was an annual gathering bringing together a whole array of stakeholders. It made recommendations to the Senate and the Council of the university, was responsible for appointing the Pro-Chancellor, had delegates to various committees of the University, and had historically been used as an opportunity for locally based institutions and the broader community to raise concerns to the senior management. A ‘Court Review Group’ was set up by the University Council. It is not known how its members were appointed, and nobody from the University Court was invited to participate in the review. It was externally reviewed by a University of Exeter registrar who had been involved in the closure of that institution’s own Court, and the recommendations were approved by the Senate and Council, and presented as a fait accompli to the 2018 gathering of the Court, with no opportunity to vote on the proposals.

The reasons for abolishing Court are unclear. ‘Lack of diversity’ was presented as a reason, but the Court was more diverse than the Senate, University Council, and senior management team, so ignore that. It was also suggested that the Court consumed a lot of resources, but since the Court is being ‘replaced’ by a less accountable, less diverse ‘annual public meeting’ anyway, that can be ignored too.

What we can’t ignore is the fact that the Court of the University of Bath was instrumental in triggering a HEFCE investigation into Vice-Chancellors’ involvement in setting their own salary, and that only a few months prior our own remuneration committee was rejigged to remove the Vice-Chancellor. Just in time for the release of said HEFCE report.

What this means is that locally based institutions, alumni, dignitaries, clergymen, etc, now have no official say in the running of the university, and a tiny and unrepresentative body now has sole control over who to invite to its new ‘annual public meeting’.

It is the biggest, but by no means the only, exclusionary change to Lancaster’s decision-making this year, and you can read our coverage of this issue below:












It all started so well for the Students’ Union. In subtext 169 we reported on their campaign against an unnecessary rent increase of up to £249. To make their displeasure known, LUSU set up a stall and put £249 worth of pasta on display. A little gimmicky, we thought, but enough to get the usual ‘our costs are going up and we have the best halls ever anyway’ line trotted out by the university. And so, we sat back, and then… nothing. There was no further campaigning action, no publicity releases about negotiations, and no attempt to actually mobilise students into a General Meeting, or a protest, or anything.

And then the SU was complicit in the abolition of University Court (detailed above under UNIVERSITY COURT), the decision making body with the largest student delegation, the only one to which any student representative could propose motions and policy, and at which students had fought and won against the university.

But the University Court was due to be abolished anyway, and perhaps it wasn’t the best hill for the SU to die on if it wanted to pick more important fights. As the industrial action took hold of the entire higher education sector, and the student body increasingly swayed towards the side of the staff, subtext eagerly awaited the SU’s statement of intent, and its plan of action, before issue 173 went to print. The plan, it transpired, was to ’empower [student] opinion with impartial information.’ Yes. After making clear that it wasn’t best pleased that the action was going ahead, the SU decided that it wasn’t even going to OPPOSE it. Instead, it put out some tepid ‘on the one hand this and on the other hand that’ infographics. Thankfully, hundreds of students spontaneously organised, many of whom were heard shrieking with derision at any mention of the SU, joined by striking UCU members.

Even JCR officers weren’t safe. A series of posters denouncing the Vice-Chancellor’s salary and lack of funding for the counselling service quickly disappeared from campus, and LUSU’s higher-ups were reported to have advised the JCR officers responsible to take a different tack, apparently pledging to help ‘broaden’ the campaign and attract wider attention. As we predicted in subtext 177, such a campaign never came to fruition – LUSU simply quashed the activism.

LUSU might have made better decisions, be it on Grad Ball (which this year was cancelled for the first time since the 1970s), opposing strike action, or allowing fascism on campus to be funded, if it were more accountable to students, and hadn’t gutted almost all of its accountability structures in 2015 (as we recalled in issue 174). Could LUSU’s ‘scrutiny panel’ have curbed this behaviour? No. In subtext 174, we noted that the ‘scrutiny panel’ hadn’t met at any point during the nine months that the sitting sabbatical team had held office, and was denounced by a former appointee for producing toothless reports that ‘nobody reads.’ Perhaps a General Meeting of the student body could have passed policy? Not a chance – LUSU’s General Meeting failed to reach quoracy, because they failed to seize the enthusiasm around the rent increase in the first term, or the industrial action in the second term to drive attendance. In lieu of a quorate General Meeting, LUSU instead held an ‘online general meeting’, which is completely unconstitutional and has zero powers to authorise LUSU to do anything.

There must have been SOMETHING keeping LUSU’s political wing busy, because one now-former officer appeared on Bailrigg FM back in May boasting to a Labour Party representative that by-election turnout was healthy because LUSU had bothered to do a bit of promotional work, even though it ‘isn’t their job’ (it is).

subtext keeps a close eye on all of the university’s most influential wings, and the SU is one of them. You can read all of our reporting on the SU’s activities throughout 2017-18, which is far more detailed than our VERY brief recap, below.


http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/2018/02/01/court-the-final/ |
















That was then. This is now. subtext is pleased to report that the new team of LUSU full-time officers seem to have got off to a blistering start, by calling a student demonstration against the proposed introduction of 6pm to 7pm lectures, during this Saturday’s Undergraduate Open Day. The details:


Don’t miss your Week 1 subtext for our full report on the ‘extended teaching day’ proposals, including why you shouldn’t dramatically increase your undergraduate numbers without also dramatically increasing your lecture theatres, and why this problem isn’t going to go away any time soon.


In what has been yet another docile year from the Students’ Union, our interest was piqued by a number of posters on campus which read:




It was a classic bit of union tubthumping, questioning why a university awash with cash to spend on giant screens and fountains, on ‘renegotiated’ contractor fees, and a football university, can’t invest in services for the students who provide more than half of its funding.

We understand that members of County JCR distributed the posters after a frustrating meeting with a senior university figure who disagreed that the current counselling waiting times are unacceptable.

The top table has not heeded the warning of Universities Minister Sam Gyimah, who has pledged to establish regulations protecting free speech on campuses. Some 60-70 of these posters were swiftly removed by officialdom without explanation. Then we remembered that ‘free speech’ is only for people who want to verbally abuse foreigners and transsexuals.

subtext also understands that the Students’ Union swiftly intervened, allegedly advising the campaigners that the issue is not exclusive to the County College and is therefore an unjustifiable use of resources. This is complete horse puckey, of course, but the campaigners are confident that LUSU intervened purely to improve the campaign, widen its appeal, and attract wider attention.

Presumably, then, we can expect the SU to mount a broad, cross-campus campaign against extravagant spending by the university at the expense of student services in the near future? We’ll look forward to that. Probably for quite some time.


Last December we responded on our Facebook page to a testy complaint from the HR Director that we had falsely claimed (subtext 170) that the VC sat on the Remuneration Committee – the same body that sets his own salary. We apologised profusely but pointed out that we had gleaned this information from the University’s own website. So we are delighted to announce that the relevant University webpage has at last been amended – a mere six months after Council hastily changed the Remuneration Committee, prior to the publication of HEFCE’s damning report on the same arrangement at Bath University. Lancaster’s management may lack the speed of response of an Anderson Quigley but they get there in the end – with a little help from subtext.


As it turns out, the membership of our Remuneration Committee was changed by a decision of last September’s Council meeting. So it happened just weeks before the HEFCE report on Bath VC’s pay was made public. Phew, a lucky escape for us! It’s almost as if our Council had advance warning of what it contained. Highly unlikely, of course.

And some late news. At the time of publication of this subtext the University website has still not been updated to reflect the changed membership of the Remuneration Committee. Let’s see how long it takes them now…


The generous salaries paid to vice-chancellors have been very much in the news lately. Firstly at Bath, then Southampton, and now in Birmingham, staff, students and outside bodies have challenged what they see as the bloated pay packets of their VCs. Contrasts have been drawn with real-terms reductions in pay for the vast majority of staff, the proliferation of zero-hours contracts, and the cuts in services and provision for students. At a national level, Labour peer Lord Adonis has been busily stirring the pot, so we can look forward to even more instances of vice-chancellors’ pay being exposed to public scrutiny.

But what of our own small and unassuming institution? Every year subtext likes to carry a piece on the size of the vice-chancellor’s emolument and we must conclude that in terms of the sector as a whole, it is modest. It currently stands at £311K per annum, and although appearing rather large to most of us, it comes nowhere near that of his colleagues at Bath (£468K), Southampton (£433K), and Birmingham (£426K). Of course, you could add in the fact that he lives rent-free in a rather spacious and extensively renovated residence standing in its own grounds and with the use of a chauffeur-driven car, but let’s not nit-pick. Unless this year’s accounts show that he’s been given a whopping increase (and let’s not rule this out, what with being University of the Year and all that), he will still be comfortably mid-table in the vice-chancellorial pay league.

What does concern us, however, is the mechanism by which his pay is set. When Bath first hit the headlines, an inquiry into what was going on was undertaken by HEFCE. Its report and recommendations make interesting reading, especially in relation to the conduct of Bath’s Remuneration Committee. While noting that it met HEFCE’s basic requirements, the report went on to say that ‘there is scope for much improvement in the way it operates, particularly in terms of its transparency’. It was unhappy that the vice-chancellor whose pay was set by the Remuneration Committee was herself a member of that same committee (this was also an issue at Southampton and Birmingham). It was also critical of the record-keeping of the Committee, noting that ‘the minutes of Remuneration Committee meetings are insufficiently informative to enable Council members fully to exercise their right to challenge and to take responsibility for decisions that have been delegated to the Committee. Clearer explanations and/or justifications for the remuneration awarded to senior staff are needed.’

Lancaster, we would expect, would be different in the way it conducts these things. But it isn’t. The VC is a member of Lancaster’s Remuneration Committee, though he leaves the room when his own pay is discussed (so did the Bath VC, but that didn’t impress HEFCE). The minutes are not published and those given to the rest of Council are perfunctory, to say the least. As to membership, it is even more restricted than Bath’s, consisting of the Pro-Chancellor (in the chair), the Vice-Chancellor, and two lay members of Council. And that’s it. There is provision for two additional individuals from outside the University to be co-opted, but this option has not been used. It could have been argued that as the Pro-Chancellor (who is also Chair of Council) was appointed by Court, there is a certain degree of independence in the role, but alas, this is no longer the case. The Pro-Chancellor is now to be appointed by Council.

Finally, the HEFCE report makes clear the key role played by Bath University Court in bringing this matter to a head. The pay issue had repeatedly been raised by Court members and ignored. It was the attempt by Bath’s VC to thwart the will of Court that finally triggered the HEFCE inquiry. This shows the importance of having a body to which a university’s chief officer is at least partly accountable, as Professor Henig so strongly argues in his letter (below). This is the body that Lancaster’s Vice-Chancellor, having instigated the removal of Court’s power to appoint the Pro-Chancellor, now seeks to abolish entirely. Can we now look forward to the VC making rapid progress up the pay league? And might there soon be grounds for another HEFCE inquiry?


Should there be a future inquiry into vice-chancellors’ pay (see above) it is not likely to come from HEFCE in its current form. The new Office for Students, the regulatory body which will subsume the responsibilities of HEFCE and the Office for Fair Access from April 2018, will be in the driving seat. Sir Michael Barber, who is to be the inaugural chair of the body, has publicly pledged to ‘deal with’ vice-chancellorial salaries that are out of kilter with the performance of their respective universities, as well as how they stack up with the pay of other staff. But readers who are bouncing with glee at the hardline approach from what appears to be a straight talking fixer ought not to get too excited.

For those who don’t know him, Sir Michael Barber is famous for being the inaugural head of the Prime Minister’s ‘Delivery Unit’ during the second term of Tony Blair’s government. One of Blair’s most notorious legacies was the amping up to 11 of the market, metric, and money-driven means of running public services that exist to this day, and Sir Michael Barber was one of its key architects. After working for Blair, he joined global management consultants McKinsey and became chief architect of ‘Deliverology’, a pseudoscience with manipulated / gamed targets and managerialism at its core. Readers who think we’re being harsh on Sir Michael are invited to read his own account, from 2011, here: https://tinyurl.com/y9ojh87j

Therefore, it isn’t difficult to predict that what is actually meant by ‘out of kilter’ can be many different things to many different people. In the same statement in which Sir Michael laid out his Tough Stance, he declared that ‘the best form of regulation is self-regulation’, adding that he didn’t intend to ‘interfere directly with university autonomy.’

Well, we’re sure he’s got everybody quaking in their boots. Although the idea of our VC having to justify his remuneration to someone whose past antics inspired The Thick of It (Sir Michael is said to be the main inspiration for Julius Nicholson, ‘Blue Skies’ adviser to the Prime Minister) does have a certain appeal.