Keele University big cheese Janet Finch has given the troubled seat of learning something to celebrate, by securing a whopping 31.7 per cent pay rise last year.
Finch's rise - ten times greater than that awarded to lecturers last summer and the largest awarded to any vice chancellor - takes her salary to a modest £212,000. According to local paper The Sentinel, this makes her "the 23rd highest paid university boss nationwide and better off than vice-chancellors at Cambridge, Warwick and Edinburgh".
At the same time, recently released figures show that Keele has suffered "the fourth biggest drop in student applications in the whole of the UK", with around 1,000 fewer applications for undergraduate courses starting in September.
Defending the pay hike, Keele pro-chancellor Ian Dudson, who "chaired the senior remuneration committee which set her pay level", said: "I am able to say, from my meetings with others in the HE sector, that Professor Janet Finch is considered to be one of the UK's leading vice-chancellors by her peers. Her financial management and strategic leadership have steered the university through a major period of cultural and procedural change and her vision for Keele to become the ultimate campus university is laying foundations for future growth and continued success."
Staff are unimpressed. Sally Hunt, joint general secretary of lecturers' union UCU, told The Sentinel that the "handsome rewards" dished out to university bosses "sent out the wrong message to staff".
She explained: "Their pay rises come in a year when staff workloads have continued to increase, class sizes have remained unacceptably high, and job security remains a distant aspiration for thousands of fixed-term or hourly-paid academic and related staff."
UCU has, however, managed to retain its sense of humour. Here's an email currently circulating among Keele's cash-strapped and overworked academics:
Date: Fri, 23 Feb 2007 15:18:23 +0000
Subject: announce: Congratulatory message
Keele UCU congratulates Professor Janet Finch on her pay increase which, at 31.7%, takes her salary to £212,000 and is, according to the THES, the largest increase to be enjoyed this year by a V.C. of a British institution. We are pleased to remark that Keele does, then, remain at the top of at least one of the national league tables.
Nicely done. We should add for the record that Finch's salary boost was her first since 2003 and her wages are now frozen until 2009, which will offer some comfort to lecturers as they face another evening meal of Pot Noodles and boiled cardboard. ®