Freesteel Blog » VCs for fees

VCs for fees

Sunday, November 28th, 2010 at 1:01 am Written by:

Students have been getting all uppity about university fees of late and channeling their anger into marches in London that are supposedly going to get noticed by politicians.

Seems like a waste of time to me, given that the actual origin of the policy has been on campus, pushed by the cadre of senior managers circulating through the higher education institutions like generals on tour of their military bases.

Take Sir Howard Newby of Liverpool University, now the third highest paid Vice-Chancellor in the country.

In 1999 Mr Newby had already made his position clear — especially on the importance of controlling access to the best universities by the ability to pay:

Vice-chancellors have ushered in an era of bold university reform with the election of a new chairman committed to modernising the sector.

Howard Newby, vice-chancellor of Southampton University and vice-chairman of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, has pledged to tackle head-on key funding issues -including the possibility of introducing differentiated fees and student fee vouchers – when he becomes CVCP chairman in August.

By 2001 he was in charge of some faceless HE institution producing reports about how to set up the fees system, in spite of government policy:

Professor Sir Howard Newby, said a number of universities had been examining the possibility of charging top-up fees, which would be in addition to the £1,050 paid by better-off students in tuition fees…

The Education Secretary David Blunkett recently reaffirmed the government’s opposition to such fees and pledged that the government would not introduce them in the next parliament if it was re-elected.

[But Sir Howard said:] “It is quite common, after an election, for any government to re-examine its policies. We regard this as all to play for.”

Fees were introduced, but it was not enough. Here he is 2003:

Appearing before the Commons’ education and skills select committee, Sir Howard said that if the government had wanted to create a market in higher education, where universities pitched course prices according to student demand, then they should have raised the maximum fee to £5,000 a year.

Sir Howard then minced over to the University of the West of England in 2005 to be “disruptive for students and staff, disastrous for staff morale and damaging to the reputation of the university” until, after 16 months as VC, he vanished and somehow washed up in Liverpool as the new VC in 2007. Because he believes in pay differentials, he immediately took a 20% pay rise on top of the already inflated salary of the previous VC, Sir Drummond Bone. A spokesman for Liverpool University said:

“Our Vice-Chancellor’s salary reflects his exceptional and significant expertise in the HE sector.”

I think the word is experience, not expertise, and I don’t see why it’s necessary to pay so much for it.

How did this dude get here anyway?

I did something radical and read the University Statutes:

After filing the relevant FOI request and reassuring them that, no, they weren’t Ministers of the Crown, and that the report could not possibly be commercially confidential, I got this rather disappointing document back:

It was signed off by the following 10 characters:

Mr D McDonnel, Mr M. Blundell, Professor G Dockray, Mr J. Flamson, Professor S. Flint, Professor J Keaton, Professor I. Owen, Dr P. Ridley, Professor J. Saunders, Professor P. Stafford

— who should be asked if they each consider this an adequate “report”, and why they thought it right for Sir Martin Harris, former VC of Manchester to grease his colleague into this position so very easily.

Money is the most important factor in all of this, and a new VC needs some new remuneration. There’s a procedure for arranging who to push over to get the pay raised higher. I requested some information about the Remuneration Committee.

From the March 2010 minutes of the group composed of Mr David McDonnell, Professor James Keaton, Sir Howard Newby, Ms Judith Greensmith, Dr Nirmala Pillay, Mr Patrick Hackett, Mrs Debbie Grainger:

Protocol for review of the Vice-Chancellor’s Remuneration and Travelling Expenses

Noted that the Vice-Chancellor withdrew from the meeting for discussion of this item. It was also noted that such a proposed Protocol did not exist before.

Vice-Chancellor’s Remuneration Package: It was agreed, as set out in the protocol that the Remuneration Committee will review and determine annually the VC’s remuneration package, with expert support from the Director of HR, and that information relating to baseline salary, pension, bonus and any special arrangements should be presented to the Remuneration Committee for approval.

Vice-Chancellor’s Spouse: It was agreed that if the spouse of the Vice-Chancellor is likely to have any formal relationship with the University, the detail of any such agreement should be agreed by the Remuneration Committee and that any such arrangements should comply with the HRMC rules and regulations.

Vice-Chancellor/Spouse’s Travelling Expenses: It was agreed that all overseas travel by the VC/spouse or other non-university employee should be considered by the Chief Operating Officer and a lay officer of the Remuneration Committee prior to being finalised.

It was agreed that a monthly summary of all the Vice-Chancellor/spouses’ expenses be countersigned by the Chief Operating Officer and President of Council and reported annually to the Remuneration Committee.

The Committee discussed the arrangements for the Vice-Chancellor’s PDR and it was agreed that what is happening within the sector should be investigated and reported back to the Committee. It was agreed that any such review would be undertaken by the President of Council plus one other member of the Remuneration Committee.

It was noted that the Vice-Chancellor’s role is due for Review July 2012. A protocol would be submitted to the following meeting.

And inMay 2010 the dyslexic minutes of the Mr David McDonnell, Professor James Keaton,
Sir Howard Newby, Dr Nirmala Pillay, Mr Patrick Hackett, Mr Peter Deer, Mrs Debbie Grainger group said:

Protocol for the Review of the Vice-Chancellor’s Remuneration, Expenses and arrangements relating to the VC’s Spouse/Vice-Chancellor’s Remuneration 2009

It is recorded that the Vice-Chancellor withdrew from the meeting for discussion of these

Protocol for the Review of the Vice-Chancellor’s Remuneration, Expenses and arrangements relating to the Vice-Chancellor’s Spouse: It was noted that arrangements should comply with ‘HMRC’ rules not HRMC as indicated in the minutes of 23.3.10 meeting.

It was agreed to ratify the Protocol with the above amendment.

Following a discussion regarding the VC’s remuneration, it was agreed that there would be no percentage uplift to the VC’s baseline salary as part of the 2009 Review. The Committee agreed that they are seeking clarity around the VC’s remuneration package including use of car, the Lodge, pension and the arrangements concerning the VC’s wife as Ambassador and have requested a report be produced and looking at the overall package/arrangements and presented to the Committee. It was agreed that the purpose in seeking clarification was that by being transparent, individuals and the University would be protected.

Future salary negotiations were discussed and it was agreed that any future uplift would need to be made on the backdrop of achievements made against a list of objectives and that these objectives should be agreed by the Vice-Chancellor with the President of Council and one other Lay Officer. It was agreed that such a meeting should be convened before the end of this academic year.

In other words, no one is sure why he got the previous pay rise. And, in keeping with the traditions of the highly overpaid, everything must be on expenses.

Why is it always in terms of pay rises? Surely it should be about justifying value and actual pay each year against a list of objectives. If you don’t achieve the objectives of the job, why be paid at all, let alone quibble over pay rises?

But the rule is that everything has to go up, and keep going up to get to where they want them. Sir Howard wants to be a multi-millionaire, like all his chums he meets with on his travels. (I imagine he mingles with quite a lot of millionaires.) And student fees are going to have to go up to £9000 to pay for it. This allows for direct government funding (with strings attached) to be cut, and for these chartered public institutions that have no shareholders and no democratic accountability to really start doing business in the private sector, where it feels good.

So, the message to students is: Why do you waste everyone’s time traveling down to London and pestering politicians for the last decade, when the rot started and spread through your own place of study? Do you know how cost-effective and convenient an office sit-in can be? The demands are quite simple: You want your university management to cease its powerful government lobbying for higher and higher tuition fees. That’s where it’s coming from.

And here’s a second demand to add to it that’s really quite radical.

How about direct elections for University Vice-Chancellors?

There’s a heck of a lot more sense to it than this ridiculous elected police commissioners idea.

Just think what these guys would have to promise when they came round to ask for your vote. The whole institution — everything — would change.


  • 1. Tweets that mention Frees&hellip replies at 30th November 2010, 3:37 pm :

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JRWB, Geoffrey_Crayon. Geoffrey_Crayon said: Freesteel: Take Sir Howard Newby … Fees for VCs […]

  • 2. Richard Taylor replies at 3rd December 2010, 1:31 am :

    While I think electing Vice Chancellors is a step too far, I do think students, staff, and others should have a big role in determining how universities are run. Those reading this might be interested in:

    As I wrote that paragraph it’s my fault if its not clear on the key idea – that universities should be run by an elected body which reflects their make-up. A less extreme form of this without the proportionality and with external input was something I proposed when I applied to be an External Member of the University of Cambridge Council.

  • 3. Julian replies at 4th December 2010, 12:42 am :

    How could it be going too far?

    Surely, just as in the case with electing presidents and prime ministers, the choice of candidates would be pretty well nailed down to make sure they are the right sort of people. The staff and students of the university would then be given a chance to pick between two or three options.

    Out of the list, one of the candidates looks totally corrupt and the students and staff are given a chance to turn down this rejected cast-off from another university who would otherwise have found his way in via his connections.

    And of the other two, probably both equally qualified, the one that actually decided to make an effort to connect with the members of the university (as opposed to appointing their wife as the “university ambassador” and flying around on junkets all the time) would get the job.

    The idea is that the process would draw in participation in the governance at all other levels due to the need for campaigning for the top job. This would fundamentally shift the tone of everything.

    I see no obvious legitimacy in the present arrangement where you have a self-appointing system. There are no shareholders from whom the executive can claim to be drawing a mandate.

  • 4. Richard Taylor replies at 8th December 2010, 2:55 pm :

    Rather than directly electing VC’s I think we would have stronger, freer, more democratically run universities if we had democratic structures deeply embedded within them. I think that democracy is strongest when it is present in-depth and directly elected figureheads alone don’t provide democratic accountability and scrutiny. We need grass-roots democracy in universities; stronger students’ unions and enforcement of the Education Acts ought be a key part of that. Elected staff and student representatives should be running departments and universities.

    The Mayor of London as an institution is strengthened by the scrutiny the elected mayor gets from elected members of the London Assembly. An elected “chief” without such a supportive body of elected members, as we might get with Elected Police Commissioners is in my view risky and not as robust as the kind of structures which could be built. I think we should nationally set minimum standards but encourage diversity in universities, allowing them all to come up with their own locally appropriate democratic structures.

    I think elected individuals ought make, and be accountable for, decisions to appoint a particular Vice Chancellor but do not think direct election of the head of the institution is necessary or desirable. Having staff, students and others directing the selection process would do more to “shift the tone” than simply holding elections to choose between a handful of candidates selected by the establishment. If any election from such a shortlist was to be run a “None of the Above” option would be a valuable safeguard.

  • 5. Julian replies at 8th December 2010, 7:40 pm :

    I think we both have the same end vision here, as well as a dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs.

    The question is how do we get there from this state of utter disengagement.

    By proposing in three words: “Directly elected VCs”, I would be disappointed if all we got was directly elected VCs and nothing else.

    What I would hope would be achieved by the demand “Directly elected VCs” is a movement towards engagement and questioning the accountability of university senior management. What I would hope to end with is something close to your outline (which I think is like a town council plus chief executive).

    But we ain’t going to get there unless there is some movement in a direction that people understand.

    Very few students know the existence of the VC (perhaps we ought to do a survey in different universities, just to see if I’m right [put this in the questionaire asking you to name your MP]). Almost none will have heard of the existence of the University Council.

    Proposing the election for the VC is a good starting demand to get the ball rolling. I imagine they allow nomination of one seat of the Council to the student body, but a fat lot of good that does.

    It’s supposed to encourage a challenge and movement

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