University defends Vice Chancellor’s pay

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The University has defended the pay of its Vice-Chancellor, Andrew Hamilton, following criticism from students who condemned his £339,000 salary as “disgraceful” and “insulting”.

A University spokesperson justified Hamilton’s pay, which stands at £442,000 once benefits and pension are included, on account of Oxford’s “great institutional complexity” and “vast” research output.

The statement was released following Monday’s “day of social media action”, in which activist group Oxford Defend Education encouraged students to share statuses, memes, and tweets, to protest Hamilton’s pay.

The spokesperson commented: “Oxford is one of the great universities of the world, making a major contribution to the economic prosperity of the UK as well as to tackling global challenges through its research.

“Its research output is vast, it has an almost billion-pound-a-year turnover not including the colleges and Oxford University Press, and it has great institutional complexity. The University must remain globally competitive and its Vice-Chancellor’s remuneration needs to reflect that.”

Oxford Defend Education, however, was deeply critical of Hamilton’s pay, which according to data compiled by The Times is the highest of any Vice-Chancellor in the country.

Hamilton’s pay is considerably higher than that of the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, whose salary was £334,000 as of January 2014.

The Facebook page for Monday’s event stated: “At lunchtime on January 12th 2015, Andrew Hamilton will, presumably, be eating his lunch and feeling pretty proud of himself. Why? Because at around midday, before Hilary term even begins, he will have earned the same amount as Oxford’s lowest paid full-time staff earn in a whole calendar year.”

The group also noted that “as [Hamilton’s] wages continue to increase during the recession, other staff at the university suffered a 13.5% real-terms pay cut”.

The group urged the University to pay Living Wage to all staff, “take action” on eliminating Oxford’s “gender and racial pay gap”, and commit to reducing the pay ratio between its highest and lowest paid worker to 5:1.

The University also defended its record on Living Wage, stating: “For many years, Oxford has ensured that everyone employed by the central University is paid the Living Wage. The University has been considering further steps on the issue and hopes to make an announcement in the next few weeks.”

On Monday, dozens of students took to social media to voice their opposition to Hamilton’s pay. Law student Angie Normandale tweeted: “I’m pretty sure for £442k we could build a robot that does [Hamilton’s] job for him.”

NUS representative James Elliot wished Hamilton a “Happy pay day”, with Wadham fresher Ella Adjei branding Hamilton’s pay “disgraceful”.

Oriel student Kate Bradley, a member of Oxford Defend Education, condemned Hamilton’s pay as “insulting”, stating: “I struggle to imagine what Andrew Hamilton could be doing with £442,000 a year.

“I think it’s important that students know where their fees are going, and that staff know the disparity in wages between themselves and Oxford’s management. When we have information, we can act on it.”

Numerous other universities around the country have planned protest action in relation to Vice-Chancellor pay, with Birmingham, Warwick, UCL, and Royal Holloway all scheduling events in the coming weeks.

Hamilton attracted controversy in October 2013 when he equated the “real cost” of an Oxford education to £16,000, and urged the government to allow top universities to charge higher tuition fees.

Vice-Chancellor pay remains a contentious political issue, with business secretary Vince Cable and universities minister David Willetts last year urging university leaders to exercise “much greater restraint”.

Andrew Hamilton declined our request for comment.


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