Revelations about the pay of university Vice-Chancellors in the UK have sparked student protests across the country, with attendees calling for a smaller gulf between the lowest and the highest-paid members of university staff.
Students at the University of Edinburgh have demanded that the Vice-Chancellor be paid no more than five times the salary of the university’s lowest-paid staff.
These demands came after a report by The Herald revealed that Vice-Chancellors across the country had received salary increases at the turn of the year.
Professor Stephen Chapman, Principal at Heriot-Watt University, received a pay rise of eight per cent, the highest pay rise received by a principal in Scotland.
Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, Principal of the University of Edinburgh, earns almost 19 times more than the lowest-paid employee of the University.
University of Edinburgh Socialist Society held a demonstration outside the Principal’s office at Old College last week.
In an interview with The Student, Briana Pegado, President of Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA), said that the Principal had “refused pay increases for quite some time now”.
She added that this was not always the case, and that “there should be more policies and structures in place to prevent these unregulated pay structures within public funding organisations.”
Universities Scotland, the representative of university principals, released a statement saying many of the university principals had refused pay rises for the calendar year.
Meanwhile, students have also highlighted gender and racial pay gaps as a particular area for attention.
Speaking with Times Higher Education, Helena Dunnett-Orridge, a member of the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC), said the fight was “also a fight for the rights of women and migrant workers who are almost always disproportionately affected”.
Speaking to The Student, Mary Senior, the Scotland Official at the Universities and College Union (UCU), said that the “inflation busting pay rates” were damaging to higher education in Scotland.
She welcomed the efforts by Holyrood to reform the university sector, after the Scottish Government proposed legislation which would introduce elections for university chairmen and chairwomen.
The Scottish National Party said last week that they would support constraining principal pay.
The recently installed Education Secretary in Scotland, Angela Constance, highlighted equal pay as a chief concern of hers in her first interview as Education Secretary last week.
Constance told the Times Higher Education that an increase in principals’ pay had to be coupled with an increase for all lower-ranking employees.
She further highlighted the low number of students from poorer backgrounds at universities as a key area for adjustment.
Constance said: “Young people from the background I was from, from a West Lothian mining village, who want to go to St Andrews to study Classics, should have an equal right to do so.”
A report in November found that students from the 20 per cent most deprived areas in Scotland make up just 13.3 per cent of university students in Scotland.