Findings by the University and College Union (UCU) have revealed that Vice-Chancellors at 95 percent of UK universities are on the committee that sets their pay or are allowed to attend its meetings. As part of work regarding pay, perks and transparency at top universities, the UCU sent Freedom of Information requests to 158 institutions asking for details about membership to remuneration committees and recent minutes from their meetings.

Among the responsibilities of such committees is the task of setting Vice-Chancellor pay. Of those asked, 47 percent of responding institutions revealed that their Vice-Chancellors were full members of their remuneration committees, with just seven of the remaining 53 percent of universities saying that their VC’s didn’t attend the committee meetings at all. 15 universities refused to respond entirely.

The average pay of a Vice-Chancellor has seen significant growth in recent years, with an increase of over 56 percent between 2005 and 2016. UCU has called for students and staff to sit on remuneration committees, with their minutes being made accessible to the public, and for Vice-Chancellors to be barred from attending, let alone partaking, in the meetings.

The organisations general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “The time has come for proper transparency of senior pay and perks in our universities and that starts with full disclosure of the shadowy remuneration committee.

“It is scandalous that three quarters of universities refuse to issue full minutes of these meetings.”

Hunt continued: “We need the Vice-Chancellor to be removed from the remuneration committee and barred from attending its meetings. Staff and students should be given seats at the top table in universities and all minutes should be made public.”

The findings come amid tensions regarding ensuing industrial action by university staff over changes to their pensions. Of the 64 universities with staff going on strike, only two have Vice-Chancellors who neither sit as members on their remuneration committees nor attend their meetings.