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Oxford Vice-Chancellors’ compensation passed £1 million last year

Due to sabbatical payment for former Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson, Oxford University Vice-Chancellors’ compensation passed £1 million in the last financial year; this figure includes the market rental value of their accommodation.

Richardson was compensated £289,000 for her time in office from August to December 2022, when she left Oxford with an additional £423,407 – equivalent to a year’s salary – as “payment in lieu of sabbatical” (as agreed upon when she took office in 2015, according to the University’s newly released Financial Statements).

Vice-Chancellor pays are set by the Committee to Review the Salaries of Senior University Officers (CRSSUO), which in 2019 decided on a 8.4% increase in the role’s salary, previously set in 2009. Before the increase, Oxford’s Vice-Chancellor remuneration ranked 11th nationally; now it ranks second after the £714,000 received by ICL’s Alice Gast.

However, Richardson chose not to take the increase until after the pandemic, when she received £542,000 for her work in the 2021-2022 financial year. ​​The figure includes her basic salary, a one-off payment for exceptional leadership during the pandemic, and the market rental value of the University-owned accommodation in which she lived and conducted duties – a chargeable benefit for tax purposes, but not money she actually received.

Professor Irene Tracey, who took office at the beginning of January 2023, was compensated £336,000 for her work until the end of July. Tracey chose not to take the 2019 salary increase in light of the current economic situation, so her pay adjustment matched the national awards for all higher-education staff. She also waived her entitlement to a sabbatical for when she leaves office.

According to the University’s financial report, Richardson’s total pay is 6.9 times that of average academic staff and 12.2 times that of all university staff, while the ratio for Tracey’s total pay is 6.5 times and 11.4 times greater, respectively.

Oxford University and College Union (UCU) Committee told Cherwell: “Whilst Oxford University’s Vice Chancellors continue to receive six-figure salaries, the pay and conditions of many staff who work to make this University a world-leading educational institution continue to deteriorate.”

2023 saw industrial action organised by Oxford’s UCU over salaries, working conditions, and pensions. What The Economist calls the university’s “other diversity crisis” further highlights Oxford academics’ low pay and short-term contracts.

UCU’s recent report on casualised staff at Oxford’s colleges and the Department for Continuing Education found that 64% of hourly worker respondents receive a real wage that falls below the Oxford Living Wage (£11.35/hr). Hundreds of University and College staff members are also effectively locked into a cycle of short-term contracts. In January 2023, two lecturers who were on fixed-term personal services contracts for 15 years sued Oxford over the “Uberisation” of their contracts.

Head of University Communications Stephen Rouse told Cherwell: “The organisation is highly complex and competes with other internationally preeminent universities to attract and retain the highest calibre academic talent and leadership. Recruitment of senior academics in this challenging market is a key responsibility of the Vice-Chancellor.”

CRSSUO Chair Charles Harman said in a statement: “The Vice-Chancellor’s pay is required to reflect the complex responsibilities of leading the world’s highest-ranked university in the face of ever-increasing global competition.”

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