British universities are different from their European counterparts: they are not publicly owned assets and their staff not civil servants. This has long been an important distinction. This independence and ability to self govern has allowed UK institutions to rise to be some of the best in the world.

Yet this announcement is further evidence of the encroaching government influence over our great institutions. This is driven by a consistent belief by policy makers that it is they who can make judgements about the quality of universities, and not the students who attend them. Over the past few months, universities have been graded, had it decided for them whether they are able to increase fees, and are now faced with being told that their vice-Chancellor’s pay is in some way “incorrect”.

The continued success of our universities doesnít ultimately depend on the governmentís attempt to force them to provide “value for money” with the aid of tokenistic gestures such as fining for excessive pay. Rather it relies upon the independence of these institutions to set their own rules.