Professor Stephen Toope, the new vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, has refused to take a pay cut to his £365,000 salary and is encouraging others to do the same.
Speaking to The Times, Prof Toope, a Canadian who has spent the majority of his professional life in North America, explained that the role of vice-chancellor is “relentless” and not understood properly in the UK.
He said: “People don’t understand how a vice-chancellor’s job has evolved. I am essentially responsible for £1 billion a year turnover, 11,000 employees, 19,000 students, and am in the lead to complete a £2 billion fundraising campaign.”
He added this means that he is: “searching for all possible sources of income, while developing the international reputation of the university, working with business, government and civil society to develop partnerships, while being responsible for operations and the entity of the university.”
He stated that senior salaries are not an issue for individuals, but for the entire sector, and expressed the wish that no action be taken to appease critics.
University bosses on average earn £257,904, which has prompted the Office for Students (OfS) to require that universities justify any salary above that of the Prime Minister (£150,402) and fine those unable to do so.
The chairman of the OfS, Sir Michael Barber, urged vice-chancellors to accept pay cuts to restore public confidence.
Prof Toope also feared that rising student loans could undermine UK universities’ global standing, and questioned the interest rate of 6.1 percent when commercial loans are much lower.
However, Toope added that he had high regard for the UK’s Higher Education system.
Speaking to The Times, Toope said “The HE system in the UK is the envy of the world.”
He added: “The UK has attracted generation after generation of people from all parts of the world as the universities are very strong, and Cambridge is the pinnacle.
“I very much hope the government realises what a tremendous national asset this is for the UK. Anything that undermines that asset would be a true own goal.”