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Staff furloughed, top officials keep high salaries

The University has placed some staff on furlough in response to the financial impact of COVID-19, but senior officials in the University will not currently be taking a pay cut. As Cherwell reported in February 2017, seven senior officials at the University earned more than £300,000 per year in 2017.

In an email to staff seen by the BBC, the Vice-Chancellor said that employees unable to work will be placed on the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. This applies to workers with caring responsibilities and those who work in university facilities that have been closed, such as libraries and museums.

Although staff will receive a full salary, 80% will be paid by the Government. The University said it “has committed to paying all furloughed employees 100% of their salary during any period of furlough.”

However, Oxford has faced criticism for not making cuts to the pay of senior figures. Vice-Chancellor Louise Richardson will continue to receive her full salary, unlike counterparts at other universities. 

The President of Imperial College and the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol have taken a 20% pay cut, while London Metropolitan’s Vice-Chancellor has donated 10% of her salary to the University’s hardship fund. Liverpool University and the London School of Economics are also considering cutting vice-chancellor pay.

“It is not clear whether an institution of the size and strength of Oxford does need to furlough staff, especially while protecting the salaries of its highest-paid,” said Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union.

Richardson earns a total salary of £367,000, making her one of the highest-paid vice-chancellors in the country. Oxford has no current plans to cut senior pay.

A spokesperson for the University said: “The changes announced last week are the only financial mitigation measures currently being implemented by the University. As the period of the current lockdown and its financial consequences become clearer, we should be better positioned to judge whether these mitigating actions are sufficient or further actions need to be taken. Staff will be the first to be informed if further actions are necessary.”

Amongst other measures, departments will no longer be able to recruit staff. Any recruitment processes underway must be paused immediately. The recruitment freeze does not apply to colleges and Permanent Private Halls, or to research posts that are fully funded by external grants.

Current staff members may also be redeployed under a new staffing protocol introduced last week. The University’s website states said this measure “allows for greater movement between roles, fills capacity where there are constraints, and offers more opportunities to employees whose contracts are ending.”

The University will also reconsider building plans, with costs “reviewed in light of the new financial reality.” According to the BBC, Richardson commented in an email to all staff that these plans “will be disappointing for some and will require the postponement of long-held plans.”

Despite these measures, the Vice-Chancellor said that they “may not suffice to address the scale of the challenge we face.” The University’s statement said it “continues to scope the size of our financial risks and the extent of income loss from these impacts,” and that the new staffing protocols are necessary to “ensure we sustain academic excellence and mitigate any longer term risks.”

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