Glasgow University’s Principal, Sir Muir Russell, received a pay increase almost four times the rate of inflation last year, making him the highest paid university principal in Scotland.
Sir Muir, who is due to step down from his position in October, received a pay rise of 12.1%, increasing his salary from £205,000 in 2007 to £230,000 in 2008. When pensions are included, the figure rises to £262,000.
University principals across Scotland saw their salaries rise by an average of 10%, while Scottish principals receive 10% pay rise lecturers have seen their pay rise by only 5% during the same period.
Guardian recently discovered that graduate teaching assistants at the University of Glasgow have not recieved a salary increase since 2002 and, in some cases, may be earning less than the national minimum wage.
There are meetings planned to address this situation, but it is unlikely that any increase in pay will be as high as 12.1%.
The increases will see an additional £255,000 taken from Scotland’s higher education budget, with the total paid out to principals now topping £3m for the first time.
This comes at a time when the higher education sector is dealing with the tightest settlement since devolution.
In the budget settlement of November 2007, Universities Scotland, the body responsible for representing and promoting Scotland’s higher education sector, had asked for an increase of £168 million over three years.
However, the Scottish Government has announced that the figure would rise by only £30 million.
Recent research has also shown that English universities, who already have the advantage of top-up fees, are increasing their share of research funding.
Glasgow University defended the decision to increase the principle’s salary, stating that the pay rise is related to performance and reflects the University’s recent success.
A spokesperson explained: “The salary of the University’s principal is performance-related and reflects the responsibilities of running a large and complex organisation.
“The increase reflects the considerable success which the University has enjoyed in the past year.
“These included a significant rise in the Times Higher University World Ranking, and the continued consolidation of our financial position.”
Universities Scotland also defended the rises, claiming that they are comparable to salaries received in the private sector.
A spokesperson for the organisation said: “The governing bodies of all universities have remuneration committees that decide the appropriate level of increase.
“The level of remuneration is modest in comparison to a company of similar size in the private sector.”
However, Terry Brotherstone, President of the University and College Union Scotland, which represents lecturers and other university employees, has called for a wide-ranging review of higher education and the way in which principals’ salaries are awarded.
He told Guardian: “Should universities be looked on as business or rather as collegial institutions devoted to critical thought and research serving the educational and public policy needs of the Scottish people?
“If the latter – and this is the question I believe should be subject to a well-researched inquiry and evidence-led debate in Scotland – then principals’ pay should be measured in relation to that of their junior colleagues, not that of bosses in the private sector whose reward system is part of a culture that is now widely discredited.”
He also argued that other members of academic staff have seen their pay decline when compared to the salaries of those working in the private sector.
He said: “It needs to be stressed that the bulk of professionals who actually do the teaching and research have seen their pay relative to other professional workers drop since the early 1980s by a third or even more.”
Professor Anton Muscatelli, who is due to take over from Sir Muir as principal and vice-chancellor of Glasgow University on October 1 2009, has also received a similar pay rise.
In his current role as principal of Herriot-Watt University, Professor Muscatelli saw his salary increase by 12.6%, from £142,000 in 2007 to £160,000 in 2008.