The University of Bolton vice-chancellor was awarded a £66,000 pay increase last year,the latest in a string of steep wage increases among universities senior leadership that has seen the government and regulators make public their concerns.
George Holmes was paid £290,215 in 2016-17, up by nearly 30% from £224,300 the previous year, according to Bolton University’s annual accounts.
The bumper rise, which included £36,000 in pension compensation, pushed Holmes’ total pay up to the national average for vice-chancellors, despite Bolton being a smaller institution than many of those with leaders in the same bracket.
The news comes just as the Committee of University Chairs published a set of guidelines for setting vice-chancellors’ pay, in an effort to curb the steep increases that have sparked national controversy.
Bolton ranks as one of the worst universities in England in terms of student drop-out and degree completion rates. According to the most recent figures, nearly one in five full-time undergraduates at Bolton left higher education after their first year, while a further one in 20 moved to a different institution.
In August last year Holmes hit the headlines when he posed in front of his Bentley. “I hope students use their education to get a good job and then they can have a Bentley. Do you want to be taught by someone who is successful or a failure?holmes asked
In a statement Bolton pointed out that the university’s silver award in the government’s teaching excellence framework “places the performance of the university above 25 universities who only gained a bronze award” last year, including the London School of Economics.
The University and College Union, which represents higher education staff, said that Bolton had previously failed to respond to freedom of information requests into Holmes’ pay and conditions.
“The Bolton vice-chancellor has been rightly criticised previously for his embarrassing lack of self awareness when it comes to his pay and accepting this huge increase will do nothing to combat the idea that vice-chancellors are utterly out of touch,” Sally Hunt, UCU’s general secretary, said.
The new remuneration code requires universities to openly publish pay and benefits for vice chancellors, although the code is voluntary and carries no sanctions.
But both the Department for Education and the Office for Students, the higher education regulator, have warned that universities making substantial pay increases to senior managers risked sanctions.
Nicola Dandridge, the OfS’s chief executive, said that vice-chancellors needed to “show real leadership” in curbing their salaries.
“We,will be expecting all higher education providers to justify how much those who lead their organisations are paid. Where an institution breaches our regulatory conditions, we will not hesitate to intervene,” Dandridge said