The University of Birmingham has defended vice-chancellor Sir David Eastwood’s huge £439,000 a year salary saying the university’s performance had “improved markedly” with “high levels of student satisfaction.”

The salary of university leaders across the country have come under criticism with Labour peer Lord Adonis labelling the amount “far too high it should be cut to no more than £200,000.”

The salaries were revealed by Times Higher Education magazine which said the average vice-chancellors salary was £331,641 rising to £355,670 once employer pension contributions are added.

Sir David Eastwood is the highest earning university vice-chancellor in the country and as well as his basic salary of £439,000 it was revealed that he is on a long-term bonus plan with a maximum value of £80,000, payable at the end of 2019-20. His salary was for the year 2016/17.

The University of Birmingham has fallen in the latest global rankings.
The University of Birmingham

In a statement the University of Birmingham defended his salary saying he was a “highly successful and experienced leader of a complex organisation.”

The statement said: ”Professor Sir David Eastwood is recognised within the higher education sector as a highly successful and experienced leader of a large, complex organisation with global reach.

“There is a global market for talented University leaders, with many Australian and North American universities paying significantly more than leading UK institutions: a reality which needs acknowledging if the UK wishes to retain its position as being second only to the US for its HE system.

Speaker Dr Michael Carley from University of Bath at protest by staff and students at University of Birmingham in December 2017

“Under Sir David’s leadership, it is widely recognised that the University’s performance has improved markedly. Aspects of this rise include high levels of student satisfaction, Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework, huge demand from applicants for our courses, the best QAA report in the sector, amongst the highest levels of graduate employment in the sector, growth in the value of research grants and quality of research and improved positions in the domestic league tables.”

A proposed new code on university bosses’ pay was published by the Committee of University Chairs (CUC) earlier this week.

It says the process for setting pay must be transparent and that institutions should take into account factors such as the value an individual provides to their institution and the context in which the university operates.

Staff and students gathered at University of Birmingham in December to discuss action over working practices as its Union says how staff are struggling to deal with workloads and real-term cuts to their pay

Pay for university chiefs in general has risen significantly in recent years, and in 2015/16 the typical salary of a UK vice-chancellor was 6.4 times that of the average university worker, according to a government consultation published in October.

Under new proposals, universities will have to publish the pay of anyone earning more than £100,000 and give an explanation if someone is earning in excess of £150,000, equivalent to the Prime Minister’s salary.

Vice Chancellor Professor Sir David Eastwood, of the University of Birmingham

In a statement to staff last month, Sir David spoke of his salary and his philanthopy.

He said: "I am committed to giving generously. The value of my giving to the University of Birmingham alone, for example, exceeds £100,000. I also give to numerous other educational, cultural, and social causes.

"My intention is quietly to exemplify the virtue of philanthropy. As a result of my earnings and personal belief in the importance of philanthropy I am able to give significant support to a range of institutions and causes that change people’s lives, and more generally use what I earn responsibly and with integrity."