University bosses attend the committees which set their own pay in 95 per cent of cases, new figures show.
Nearly half of vice-chancellors are members of their university’s remuneration bodies, according to data collected by the University and College Union (UCU), and another 47 per cent are able to attend meetings.
The data, obtained through freedom of information requests, comes amid growing concerns over spiralling salary hikes for university chiefs, with several high-profile figures, including ministers, calling for restraint.
Of the 143 institutions that provided responses, around 47 per cent (67 universities) said their vice-chancellor is a member of the university’s remuneration committee.
Of those that said their leader was not a member of the pay committee, just seven said the vice-chancellor was not allowed to attend committee meetings, and one university said it did not have a remuneration committee.
In some universities a vice-chancellor excuses themselves from the committee if they are a member, or from the meeting they are attending when their own pay is discussed and set.
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: “For too long universities have got away with painting remuneration committees as independent bodies to deflect attention over senior pay.
“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.”
A spokesman for vice-chancellors group Universities UK said: “It is right to expect that the process for determining senior university staff pay is rigorous and transparent.
“The Committee of University Chair’s (CUC) new remuneration code, currently being consulted upon, will provide important guidance for university remuneration committees to ensure senior pay decisions are fair, accountable and justified, while recognising that competitive pay is necessary to attract first rate leaders.”