Robinson College, where Professor David Yates is paid more than the head of any other college Louis Ashworth

A Varsity investigation has found significant disparities in the salaries and expenditures of college masters and their equivalents.

Based on information from a Freedom of Information Request, Varsity was able to compare the salaries of 25 college masters and the expenses claimed by 18 of them. The remaining colleges have not yet responded, or did not answer in sufficient detail to be included.

The investigation found a gap of £92,051 between the highest and lowest paid masters and a disparity of £19,181 in their average annual expenses.

Details of the expenses claimed by masters showed that they spent most heavily on promoting alumni relations and fundraising activities – particularly on trips overseas and entertaining donors.

Professor David Yates, the warden of Robinson, its equivalent of a master, was paid more than the head of any other college: £92,951 per annum. Only two other colleges pay their masters over £90,000, with Pembroke’s Lord Christopher Smith being paid £92,627 and Trinity’s Sir Gregory Winter £92,598.

These three salaries are considerably higher than the next highest, with all other colleges except Emmanuel paying their masters below £80,000. They are also over £30,000 higher than the mean salary of the 25 colleges for which Varsity has data, which is £50,670.

In 2014, Pembroke College master Sir Richard Dearlove was the highest paid of all college heads. Since then, however, the salary of Pembroke’s master has fallen by over £10,000 from £103,467.

On the other end of the scale, the president of Hughes Hall does not take a salary at all and chose not to utilise a college flat. The next lowest paid college heads are Professor David Ibbetson, the president of Clare Hall, and Professor Mary Fowler, the master of Darwin, who are paid £26,600 and £27,572, respectively. These three are the only colleges that pay their masters under £30,000.

There is a notable disparity in the gender makeup of college masters: there are 21 male masters but only ten female ones. That said, the salary data revealed that there is not a significant gender pay gap in the remuneration of masters: male masters have a mean salary of £50,173 and female masters have a mean salary of £51,728.

Further disparities exist in the value of mean annual expenses claimed by college masters, a figure that Varsity was able to calculate for 15 colleges.

The highest value of expense claims came from the provost of King’s. Professor Michael Proctor spent an average of £19,181 per year over the course of the last three years. This is significantly higher than the mean across all 15 colleges for which Varsity has data, which is £5,070 per year.

Professor Proctor’s expenses were primarily claimed for development, with entertainment and local travel costs making up the rest. In 2017, for instance, he spent £24,095 on development, which encompasses alumni relations and fundraising activities.  

The lowest expenses were claimed by Professor Ian White, the master of Jesus, and Professor Jane Clarke, the president of Wolfson. Neither claimed any expenses.  

King’s College told Varsity that it expects the provost to be engaged in its development effort. Consequently, he travels extensively on College business and this comprises most of his expenses. This is approved by the College in its budget and is much appreciated.”

Masters often spend heavily on development, with many of the highest expense claims being for overseas fundraising trips. Common destinations were the United States and East Asia, with trips often costing thousands of pounds.

Professor Yates, for example, visited Singapore, Malaysia, and Hong Kong once a year and spent £4,000-£6,000 each time.


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Masters also regularly spend thousands of pounds on entertainment activities, which similarly are often intended to raise funds for the college.

The disparities in expenses claimed by different college masters may in part be due to how colleges classify fundraising activities. They may be categorised as part of larger development funds rather than individual masters’ expenses, reducing the listed expenses claimed by masters.

Besides a disparity in salaries and expenses, colleges also differ in the additional benefits they provide to their masters. Common benefits are accommodation and free meals, but Darwin, for example, does not provide a master’s lodge. Colleges are split on whether or not they provide pension contributions and health insurance.

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