Four MPs have now resigned from an advisory board at the University of Bath, in protest of its vice chancellor, Dame Glynis Breakwell, receiving a huge £451,000 per year in pay.
Labour MP Darren Jones is the latest to stand down from the board, as he feels that if students must be run into ‘excessive debt’ then it should be for a good education, ‘not to pay bloated executive pay’.
Darren Jones’ Labour colleagues Kerry McCarthy, the MP for Bristol East, and David Drew, the MP for Stroud have also resigned from the university’s court, as has Conservative MP for South West Wiltshire, Andrew Murrison.
Andrew Murrison was particularly damning with his comments, saying university bosses are:
looking increasingly like a self-serving cartel
Just last month, former education minister Lord Andrew Adonis called for an inquiry in the House of Lords over the “greed” of university bosses, singling out the University of Bath’s vice chancellor Dame Glynis Breakwell.
The MPs are questioning whether the high fees students now face are simply to allow managerial staff to have these extortionate salaries. They feel this pay cannot be justified when students are walking away with debts of £60,000 and facing interest fees of 6.1%.
However, Breakwell suggested it was not debt which bothered students, but simply the amount of money they had available. She voiced approval of George Osborne’s controversial decision to abolish most maintenance grants and replace these with loans instead, despite experts predicting it would deter the poorest students from attending university.
Her senior position at the Student Loans Company raises ugly questions of whether her expressed view could be motivated by self-interest. The University and College Union claim the positions on boards such as this pay her an additional £28,000 annually and require 3 months of her time a year.
Claims “I’m worth it” when pressed about high salary
As well as her annual £451,000 salary, Dame Glynis Breakwell also claims £20,000 in expenses for seemingly anything she possibly can. This includes utilities, housekeeping, repairs…she’s even reluctant to buy her own biscuits, claiming back £2 for a pack.
She has been forced to defend this extortionately high salary on numerous occasions in recent years; when asked about it by a journalist in 2015, she responded “I’m worth it”, excusing the figure by saying:
“I’ve been in the job a long time and you do tend to get increases over time in most jobs.”.
This seems particularly ironic given that non-managerial staff had pay increases capped at just 1.1% last year; she herself enjoyed a rise of over 11% in her own salary, giving her an extra £45,000 per year.
She herself struggled to justify the amount she was paid, admitting that there was nothing she could say which would convince the public she deserved her salary:
Frankly, I don’t think that there is anything I could say that would stop people saying that I earn too much and vice-chancellors earn too much, so I cannot engage in a conversation because I don’t think there is a way through.
The academic world certainly feels increasingly corrupt, with the people it is supposed to benefit – the students – continuing to be extorted to satisfy the greed of the administrators; somehow, giving the students the tuition they pay absurd amounts for seems their lowest priority.
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