Many college masters seem to be perennially busy, but St John’s President Sir Michael Scholar has outdone them all – holding down two state-funded jobs.
Newly-published figures, released as part of the government’s transparency drive, reveal that Scholar earns at least £150,000 as chairman of the UK Statistics Authority.
When questioned this week, a spokesperson for the Authority said that Scholar worked for them “at least three days a week”.
But Scholar is also head of one of Oxford’s biggest colleges, leading some dons and students to question how he is able to combine both posts. One don suggested it amounted to “being paid double time”.
Scholar’s Statistics Authority salary has faced national scrutiny. One critic wrote in The Spectator that “Everyone has heard the joke about the British Rail employing stokers on electric trains. Other than his knighthood, I can’t see how Sir Michael differs from those obsolete railwaymen.”
One John’s third year student questioned his pay, but said he’d been a good master of the college.
“I don’t know how often he’s around. He’s really nice, even if he is horrendously overpaid,” she said.
A second year student praised his contribution to the college, saying: “He’s a good master. John’s works well and is a good college. You just have to look at the results to see that. He is at most events and hosts lunches for subjects.”
But one senior academic was more critical of the arrangement. “This is not usual. It might have been possible 30 years ago, but it is now not possible to do the job properly. You can delegate if you want – that would be appropriate if you weren’t being paid.
“He’s being paid double time. It sets a jolly bad example in an age of austerity like this to allow your head of house to behave like that,” he said.
Scholar, who was appointed to the college in 2001, was Private Secretary to Margaret Thatcher during her first term as Prime Minister. Thatcher recently returned to the college for lunch.
Neither Scholar nor the college responded to repeated attempts to contact them this week.