Alice Gast has been revealed as one of the university heads around the country who have had their salaries raised back to pre-COVID levels.
Gast, along with Provost Ian Walmsley took voluntary 20% pay cuts last April and invited other senior members of staff to join them in donating money to a fund to support students and staff and “to share some of the many sacrifices our community is making by volunteering, working on the front line or having their laboratory or workplace closed”.
Gast is the highest paid university head in Britain with a base salary of £359,000 as well as the use of a residence worth £110,000 a year and £47,000 in lieu of pension contributions.
Her salary returned to its usual level in November before the highest peak in daily COVID deaths in early 2021.
The Institute for Fiscal Studies has estimated that total losses to the tertiary education sector due to the pandemic could reach as high as £11 billion.
At Imperial College London at least 291 staff lost their jobs over the period. A spokesman has that a significant proportion of these employees would be researchers on fixed-term contracts, who would have been given the opportunity to extend.
She would have single handedly been responsible for raising £71,800, nearly three times the total sum of donations
Furthermore, the spokesman added that among its teaching and research staff the headcount had increased overall.
Despite this, criticism has still been fierce. Jo Grady, UCU general secretary, said: “Staff will rightly be sickened to see that some bosses have already connived to quietly reinstate their pay, exposing the temporary pay cut as a mere PR exercise. That some vice-chancellors think it is acceptable even as they throw staff on to the scrap heap shows just how deep the rot in the sector is.”
Allegations of insensitvity against Gast are not helped by an article that she was quoted in in November 2020, the month that her salary returned to its higher rate.
She told an Imperial College press officer that “This has been one of the most challenging years many of us have ever experienced.
“Adding financial hardship into the equation, whether COVID-19 related or not, has resulted in an even more challenging set of circumstances for a number of our students and staff.
“In this context it’s important that we expand our hardship funds to ensure members of our community can access the support they require.”
Imperial has claimed that combined donations of £25,000 from 282 donors allowed the extension of hardship support an additional 6 months and expanded its reach “to offer extra support to students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their first year at Imperial and staff”.
However, a rudimentary calculation shows that, had Gast not returned to her higher rate of pay, she would have single handedly been responsible for raising £71,800, nearly three times the total sum of donations.
Members of the University College Union have already passed a vote of no-confidence in Gast in response to the publication of the conclusions of a report into bullying by Gast and her lieutenant Chief Financial Officer, Muir Sanderson pictured on the left.