The vice-chancellor of Bath University will step down at the end of the academic year following concerns over her pay, but will continue to collect her salary until 2019.
Dame Glynis Breakwell is the highest-paid vice-chancellor in the country, earning £468,000 a year, compared to a sector average salary of around £250,000-£280,000. She has been at the centre of a controversial row over the past few months surrounding the “exceptional” salaries paid to vice-chancellors.
After facing increasing pressure from students and academics at Bath University, Dame Glynis will finish her tenure as vice-chancellor on the 31st of November 2018. She will then take a six month sabbatical, thus continuing to receive her full salary until February 2019. The university is also writing off her interest-free £31,000 car loan, which staff claim was a benefit in kind rather than a loan. On top of this, Dame Glynis receives £8,738 a year for a housekeeper to look after her Georgian townhouse (another benefit in kind that cost £1.6 million) and has claimed thousands of pounds in expenses, including £2 for biscuits. Earlier this year, Labour peer and former education minister Lord (Andrew) Adonis said when all her assets were considered, Dame Glynis “is paid almost exactly half a million pounds – more than three times the prime minister’s salary”.
Although many other vice-chancellors receive exceptionally high salaries – Imperial President Alice Gast takes home £430,000 a year – attentions have focused on Dame Glynis and Bath University due to their poor handling of the situation.
Until October, Dame Glynis – like many vice-chancellors – sat on the remuneration committee responsible for setting her salary. In the past academic year, Dame Glynis received a 3.9% pay rise, worth more than £17,500. The majority of Bath University employees received pay rises of around 1% (below inflation). For some, their annual salary was less than Dame Glynis’ pay increase.
A motion to censure the remunerations committee was tabled at a university council meeting in February. Dame Glynis and other committee members were allowed to vote and the motion was defeated by 33 votes to 30.
Complaints prompted an investigation by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. It made 13 recommendations, stating that the remuneration committee needed to be “much more transparent, with significantly greater explanation of its processes and decisions, both to council and more widely”.
Dame Glynis narrowly won a vote of no confidence last week, scraping victory by 19 votes to 16, with two abstentions. Dame Glynis has claimed this to be an endorsement of her leadership. She has also defended her salary, saying: “I don’t think that it’s unreasonable for people with an enormous amount of experience and a proven track record to be rewarded in the way they are.” Although Bath University has made great progress under Dame Glynis’ chancellorship, applications to the university have dropped while its six main rivals have all received increased admissions applications.
Earlier this year, universities minister Jo Johnson set out plans that would force universities to publish details of staff earning more than £100,00 a year and justify salaries of over £150,000 to a new regulatory body, the Office for Students.