Well accommodated: University vice-chancellors’ residences


University vice-chancellors are handsomely paid for their work, with an average salary of over £250,000. In addition to these bumper salaries, they are sometimes also afforded additional perks, including residences with their own staff. In contrast, many students undertaking courses at their institutions are going on rent strikes because they cannot afford their student accommodation during the covid-19 pandemic.

Tuition fees continue to rise, with the current maximum rate in England set at £9,250 per year. The government predicts that only 25 per cent of current undergraduates who take out loans will repay them in full, with the rest of the cost picked up by the taxpayer. Outstanding loans alone are set to rise from £140 billion in March 2020 to £560 billion by 2050. The millions of UK taxpayers who haven’t attended university therefore also have a direct stake in university spending, as well as current and future students.

To reduce unnecessary costs, universities should remove official residences for vice-chancellors and make them responsible for their own accommodation. These properties can then be used for other university purposes, sold or leased out.


Click here to read the research paper

  • In 2019-20, 26 universities spent a total of £512,309 on rent, mortgages and other associated costs relating to residences for the vice-chancellor or their equivalent position. This includes utilities, insurance, maintenance, staff, TV licence and other associated costs. The average spend for each of these universities over this period was £19,704.

  • At least four university residences were worth more than £1 million. These include Cambridge (£4.5 million), Oxford (£2 million), the University of East Anglia (£1.7 million) and the University of Strathclyde (£1.2 million).

  • Three universities (Glasgow, Cambridge and SOAS) spent more than £50,000 on providing and maintaining a residence for their vice-chancellor or equivalent.

  • The university that spent the most was the University of Glasgow, spending £89,463 on remunerating residence staff.

  • SOAS, University of London spent £60,000 in rent alone for their director’s residence, costing £5,000 per month.

  • The University of Cambridge spent almost £40,000 on two members of staff for their vice-chancellor’s lodge. This is alongside the £463 the university spent on insuring works of art on loan from the Fitzwilliam Museum on display in the residence.

  • In 2019-20, Ulster University spent the most on utilities, insurance and tax for the residence, totalling £22,866. This includes £10,000 on utilities, £9,480 on telephone and data charges, and £3,386 on rates.

  • The Open University, principally known for off-campus studying, spent £21,004 on its residence – Wednesden House – including £1,886 on fabric.

  • Three universities (Royal Academy of Music, Ulster and Strathclyde) paid for the TV licence in their vice-chancellor’s residence.

  • The University of East Anglia spent £31,761 in total residence maintenance costs, including £10,982 on cutting grass and £5,242 on trimming shrubs.

  • The majority of universities, or 100 of the 143 institutions which responded, did not provide residences for their vice-chancellors or equivalent.


Read the research paper | Download the full dataset

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