Oxford vice chancellor attacks 'tawdry' politicians over university pay claims
Oxford University's vice-chancellor has accused "tawdry" politicians of making a false link between increased tuition fees and the huge salaries of top brass.
Louise Richardson said it was "completely mendacious" for politicians to suggest vice chancellors have used fee hikes to enhance their pay.
She insisted high salaries reflected the “global marketplace” and were necessary for attracting talent from around the globe.
Top pay for vice chancellors has come under sharp focus in recent months amid a growing debate about tuition fees, which are set to rise above £9,000 from September.
A University and College Union report in February found the average pay package for university heads stood at £278,000 a year, with the boss of Bath university paid an eye-watering £451,000.
Fees architect Lord Adonis and Universities Minister Jo Johnson have both hit out at the “exceptional” pay - with the peer accusing vice-chancellors of “greed and complacency”.
But Ms Richardson pointed out that the rise in fees came hand-in-hand with the withdrawal of government funding for universities.
"I think it's completely mendacious for politicians to suggest that vice-chancellors have used the £9,000 fees to enhance their own salaries,” she told the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit.
"We have been getting a rough ride lately, and certainly some mendacious media and tawdry politicians seem determined to do their utmost to damage one of the most successful – and globally admired – sectors of the British economy.
"We know that the £9,000 fees were a substitute for the withdrawal of government funding.
"My own salary is £350,000 - which is a very high salary compared to our academics - our junior academics especially, who are very lowly paid."
She added: "I think this is just the politicians, and I wish they wouldn't do it, not because it's embarrassing for me or my colleagues but because it's damaging.
"Why would you want to try and damage what is one of the most successful aspects of the British economy?
"The calibre of university education is something that should be celebrated on a daily basis - not just trying to drag it down by making spurious correlations between fees and salaries."
Elsewhere Ms Richardson hit out at the new chairman of the Education Select Committee and former minister Robert Halfon after he suggested people only go to university to get a better paid job.
She described his comments as "extroadinary", adding: "It seems to me that Mr Halfon has completely missed the point of going to university, but unfortunately he is not alone."