University defends pay rise for Muscatelli

Rhys Harper & Tom Kelly
Writer & Editor

The University of Glasgow has defended the decision to give Principal and Vice-Chancellor Anton Muscatelli a 2% pay rise, despite recent criticisms over ongoing cost-cutting measures being adopted at top UK universities.

Muscatelli earned a salary package (including pension contribution) of £305,000 last year, a rise from approximately £298,900 in 2012/13. This places him among the three highest paid university heads in Scotland, earning over double the salary of the British Prime Minister.

The University has defended the decision, stating: “The Principal was awarded a 2% salary rise during 2013/14, which was in line with the pay rise for the University workforce as a whole.”

They added: “The pay increase for the Principal of the University of Glasgow is nowhere close to that of some others, and at 2% is the same as the salary rise given to all staff last year. It is also important to note that the figures quoted [in the national press] includes pension. For the vast majority of staff the only figure you would see is salary excluding pension.”

Muscatelli is Chair of the Employers Pensions Forum, the organization at the centre of the current dispute over changes to employment benefits, which unions claim would wipe tens of thousands of pounds out of teaching staff’s pension pots. The dispute led to a marking boycott last semester, which is estimated to have affected thousands of Glasgow students.

Further strike action was intended to recommence in January but was called off as negotiations between institutions and the University and College Union (UCU) progressed. Unions including the UCU have been openly critical of pay increases to top university bosses in the past, with Unite representatives claiming them to be “rank hypocrisy”.

A spokesperson for UCU Glasgow told the Glasgow Guardian: “The issue isn’t so much the size of the pay award as such, it is how that figure was decided on.

While university staff are handed arbitrary objectives and performance targets against which they are measured, it seems senior management salaries are decided without any external scrutiny.

They continued: “This is why the Government’s consultation on University governance is so important and why the recommendations from the von Prondzynski review need to be implemented to ensure transparency and accountability in how our universities are run, and how senior pay is decided.”

The von Prondzyski review refers to the recommendations made in a 2012 report chaired by Robert Gordon University Principal Ferdinand von Prondzynski, which suggested that university governing bodies ought to have elected chairs and include student, staff and union representatives.

The decision to award Muscatelli the pay rise will have been made by the Remunerations Committee, which Muscatelli himself sits on. Although they are a member the Principal is not allowed to be present for the discussion and decision relating to their own pay. With the exception of the Principal the committee is made up of external persons with anyone working or studying at the University is not eligible for selection to the committee.

The committee works within the budget approved by the University Court, which does have an elected chair as well as student and staff representatives, although it does not formally have seats specifically for representatives of unions.

Currently the highest paid university head in Scotland is Sir Jim McDonald, Principal and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Strathclyde. McDonald had a remuneration package of £334,000 last year, a 7% rise from the year previous.

A spokesperson for Universities Scotland, the body representing university heads, said many of its members refused increases to their pay:

“Looking at the sector in aggregate, there has been a 1.4% increase in the total remuneration packages received by principals this year compared to last. This was compared with the annual increase in pay for university staff, but in doing so it is important to remember that a great number of university staff receive service-related pay progression on top of annual pay awards – those that do would have been looking at a salary increase of 4% or more in the same period.”