By Kieran Neild- Ali, grassroots assistant
The TaxPayers’ Alliance has always held universities to account over eye-watering salaries and expenditure. Higher education is largely funded by students via loans. But, only 30 per cent of students repay their loans in full, and more often than not, taxpayers are expected to fill in the resulting funding gap. As the two major sources of funding, taxpayers and students have a right to see what their hard earned money is being spent on. Not only do universities pay extortionate wages to senior managers, but the TPA can now reveal that they also pay for flashy perks like luxury cars.
In 2019, the TPA released the University Rich List, which established the remuneration of top staff at 120 universities. Over the three years, there were an average of 3,615 staff getting total remuneration of over £100,000 each year, and 762 on over £150,000. We took these findings to Durham University to inform students what their fees were being spent on. They were shocked to learn that their vice chancellor, Stuart Corbridge, was paid £301,431 in 2017-18. Unfortunately, this is typical of universities across the country.
Students are understandably furious to see their contact hours slashed by strikes and terms abandoned due to COVID-19, yet are still being refused reimbursements by uni bosses on inflated wages. Taxpayers should also be dismayed. As salaries rise and chancellors keep receiving salaries larger than the prime minister, the higher education budget deficit will continue to expand. The unfortunate reality is that taxpayers will be expected to fill in the gap.
It doesn't end there. According to new TPA research, vice chancellors are also using university-funded (and therefore taxpayer-funded) high end vehicles to transport themselves to functions on and off campus. University mandarins on six figure salaries should be paying for their own transport or using the public transport network, just like hard-working taxpayers across the country. It beggars belief that universities would splash out on non-essential flashy cars instead of investing in research, teaching and all-round improvements in their students’ educational experience. Fundamentally, taxpayers should not be asked to cover the difference when universities are wasting money on nice-to-haves.
Our research has clearly established that universities are in desperate need of fiscal discipline. The higher education pension pot deficit is rising uncontrollably and the budgets of universities are being subsidised far too heavily by taxpayers. It is time for universities to trim the needless fat and end reckless spending on salaries and luxury perks like cars. Students and taxpayers alike deserve value for money and right now, universities are not providing it.