The University and College Union (UCU) says university heads have hidden behind their “secretive remuneration committees” for too long and is demanding proper scrutiny of the salaries.
Sally Hunt the union’s general secretary, says the pay rates are excessive at a time when many students are struggling to cope with financial pressures.
The union used Freedom of Information requests to obtain data on membership of university remuneration committees.
The figures show that in Scotland six vice-chancellors are members of their university remuneration committee.
These are the University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews, University of Stathclyde, Glasgow Caledonian University, the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and the University of the Highlands and Islands.
The vice-chancellor of the University of Dundee is not a member but can attend remuneration committee meetings.
The UCU also said that 75 per cent of universities refused to issue full minutes of the meetings which determined vice-chancellors’ salary levels.
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said that with so many cash-strapped students and families having to cope with increasing educational costs it was time for a light to be shone on vice-chancellors’ salaries.
“For too long vice-chancellors have hidden behind the shadowy remuneration committee when it comes to their pay.
“However, in the majority of cases, the vice-chancellor sits on that committee and the university refuses to issue minutes of the meeting.
“Students and their families are spending more than ever to fund their studies and universities should be fully transparent about how and why they are spending that money.
“It is time to lift the lid on the secretive world of university remuneration committees.”
Luke Humberstone, president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, said: “It’s concerning to hear of universities continuing to make decisions about principal’s pay behind closed doors, with little apparent scrutiny.
“ We cannot forget our universities are publicly funded charities, and should ensure transparency is a core principle of all decision making – giving the students and staff who make up our universities an insight into how that money is being spent.
“It’s becoming a dangerous norm for principal’s to earn more than our first minister, with their pay and benefits continuing to rise far above the rate of inflation. It’s vital decisions are given the utmost scrutiny.”