UNIVERSITIES have been condemned for employing 88 people who earn the same or more than First Minister Alex Salmond’s £140,000 salary.
• Eighty-eight senior university staff earn the same or more than Alex Salmond’s £140,000 annual pay
• Edinburgh University employ 52 people on or above £140,000-a-year
• Sir Ian Diamond, Aberdeen principal, is top earner on £303,000
• NUS Scotland’s Robin Parker condemns pay gulf as “unjustifiable”
Just two principals across the 18 institutions earn less than the leader of the Scottish Government, according to figures from the National Union of Students (NUS).
University of Edinburgh employs 52 people on or above £140,000 a year, with other top salaries at the universities of Aberdeen, Glasgow and Strathclyde.
Aberdeen principal Sir Ian Diamond earns the most, £303,000, according to the figures.
Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, said: “It’s unjustifiable for university principals and other senior staff to routinely be paid such large sums.
“There are 88 senior staff members at Scottish universities who earn more than the First Minister, and across our institutions the gap between the lowest and highest paid is too large, with some receiving almost 20 times that of the lowest paid university employee.
“Universities need academic autonomy but they should not have the freedom to pay such large salaries and to allow large gaps between those at the top end and the lowest paid.
“There are hundreds of millions of pounds of public money quite rightly going into universities over the next few years. We must make sure that this money is used on the frontline, not on increasing already-substantial senior salaries.”
The details were in a submission from the NUS to consultants developing the governance code for universities.
NUS wants a maximum pay ratio between high and low earners.
The largest ratio at present is at Abertay Univeristy where the highest earner gets 19.9 times more than the lowest paid worker.
The average ratio across Scottish universities is 16.1, the figures show.
An Edinburgh University spokesman said: “The University of Edinburgh is the largest higher education employer in Scotland with over 12,000 employees and income of over £700m per year.
“Proportionately, a very small number of employees earned more than £140K in the period Aug 2011 to July 2012.”
The university said clinical academic professors, some senior management and non-clinical professors “who are leading international experts in their field” fell under the university’s top pay bracket.
The statement continued: “Clinical and non-clinical professorial employees whose reported earnings exceeded £140,000 includes staff for whom a proportion of earnings are generated from external consultancy work related to their research. Consultancy work generates important income for the University and the economy.
“The University of Edinburgh is a world leading institution which sustains its high academic standing through the quality and distinction of its academic staff. To this extent, the University is in competition for these staff with other leading world institutions so it is necessary to offer remuneration packages that enable us to attract and retain the very best staff.”
A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland said: “It is unreasonable to compare universities to wholly public sector organisations such as local authorities when it comes to senior pay as universities are not technically public sector bodies. Universities do receive a significant level of public funding but this is a minority of their total income with over £1.6 billion or 56 per cent of the total coming from private and competitively won sources. As a result these salaries are not wholly paid for by the public purse unlike those in public sector organisations.
“The highest paid staff in universities tend to be senior clinical academics who are employed jointly by the university and the NHS. This is usually what accounts for salaries over £250,000 in the very limited number of cases this occurs. It is important to be clear that the salary levels are determined by NHS terms and conditions and not all of the salary is paid by the university.
“A recent analysis found Scotland’s universities have moved to show restraint in principals’ pay as the average increase was one per cent. The same survey found that at many universities, principals’ pay has remained static over the last year or has actually decreased.”