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Vice-Chancellor salary system undergoing potential transparency changes

University Vice-Chancellors are known for having lavish pay packages, often exceeding a million dollars.

Vice Chancellor Mark Scott (right) pictured with Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson (left)

Last week, Federal Education Minister Alan Tudge announced his intention to back a voluntary code that would see the salaries of university Vice-Chancellors made public, and aligned with the pay packages of top public servants.

The publicising of university Vice-Chancellor salaries would come as part of a new code announced by the University Chancellors Council (UCC). This announcement comes amid a growing concern that the paychecks of Vice-Chancellors are perhaps a little too hidden from the public. 

The largest change to come out of the code is transparency — currently, there is no reason for universities to make public the details of Vice-Chancellors and senior management’s salaries. Historically, university Vice-Chancellors are known for having lavish pay packages, often exceeding a million dollars in yearly salaries and including upmarket residencies. 

It is unclear whether this transparency will offer a tangible difference to the sizable salaries of Vice-Chancellors, particularly given the code is voluntary. Even if universities do sign themselves onto it, the incentive to degrade the amount paid in a salary would realistically rest on whether or not they consider the payments viable, following how the public responds.

The new Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sydney, Mark Scott, will earn a base-level salary of $840,00 this year, which could rise to $1.15m including bonuses. Last year, Michael Spence earned $1.6m due to the length of his tenure at the University. 

SRC President, Swapnik Sanagavarapu, welcomes the potential changes.

“It’s rare for the SRC to agree with the Federal Education Minister, but it is true that the remuneration of many Vice-Chancellors around the country are inflated and disproportionate to other sectors. At a time where staff jobs are being lost and there is a general austerity in higher education, the savings generated by smaller remuneration packages should be reinvested in higher education.”

While this change holds relatively weak against the strength of universities, it is an indication that the Government is aware of the contentious debate around Vice-Chancellor salaries.