Total sums paid to Vice-Chancellors across the UK rose at 93 universities Louis Ashworth/Varsity

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope earned a net salary of £370,000 in 2019/2020 according to recent financial information published by the University of Cambridge. 

His net salary has increased by 1.9% from £363,000 in 2018/2019, despite other senior staff earning over £100,000 being encouraged to take a voluntary pay cut to help with University plans for Covid recovery.

Toope also pledged to contribute 15% of his pay to Cambridge’s general contribution to the pension provider Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), which was implemented on 1 October 2020.

According to the financial report published by the University, “the Vice-Chancellor’s basic salary is 10.9 times [...] the median pay of staff, where the median pay is calculated on a full-time equivalent basis”. This calculation includes “over 975 agency staff employed on temporary contracts.”

This year, Cambridge spent a total of £949 million on staff costs, which includes salaries and the financial deficit caused by the USS pension funds. 

Of the 352 highest paid staff at the University, 83 earned between £105,000 and £110,000, while 73 earned between £100,000 and £105,000.

Meanwhile, across the UK, data for 2019/2020 from the Office for Students (OfS) has shown that three universities in England - Exeter, Imperial College London, and London School of Economics - pay their Vice-Chancellors over £500,000 per year in combined salary, bonuses and benefits. 

Exeter’s Vice-Chancellor earned the largest sum at £584,000. A spokesperson for Exeter University stated that the salary “reflected the value and importance of the vice-chancellor’s experience, guidance and expertise to the achievement of the university’s strategic objectives over several years.”

The total sums paid to Vice-Chancellors and other heads of higher education institutions rose at 93 universities (56% of the total), but fell in 60 (36%) and remained the same in 12 (7%).

Despite these rises for senior management, though, the proportion of overall university staff receiving an annual salary of more than £100,000 fell or stayed the same at 48% of all providers. 

In 2019/2020, 1.8% of staff received a basic salary of more than £100,000, a slight increase from 1.7% in 2018/2019.


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Nicola Dandridge, chief executive at the OfS, said: “These figures demonstrate that, across the sector as a whole, pay increases for vice-chancellors were lower than the increases recommended for all university staff.

“But that should not disguise the fact that some of these salaries, and the differences in pay between vice-chancellors and academic staff, will appear very high. Those universities should not be surprised to be asked difficult questions about this.”

She continued: “Leading a university is a complex and difficult role that requires great flexibility, knowledge and experience, and it is right that those who excel in these roles should be properly rewarded.

“However, where there are instances of an imbalance in pay at universities, it is important that this information is freely available and open to scrutiny.”