Cambridge's vice-chancellor salary is 10 times that of average staff pay, according to an annual report Tobia Navia for Varsity

Cambridge University’s acting vice-chancellor was paid £234,000 for a nine month stint in the role, a University pay report has revealed.

Elsie McDowell, president of the SU’s Class Act campaign, has described the University’s decision to pay Freeling this fee as “unbelievable”.

Dr Anthony Freeling, a former President of Hughes Hall, served as interim vice-chancellor between the 1st of October 2022 and the 30th of June 2023.

Freeling was paid £209,000 in salary for his term as vice-chancellor, and accrued an additional £25,000, described as “payments made in lieu of pension” in the University’s annual Financial Management Information report.

Deborah Prentice, Cambridge’s current vice-chancellor, was paid £179,000 in the previous academic year, for a four-month period from the 11th of April to the 31st of July. The report states that Prentice was paid as an employee of the University from April, despite taking up her post on the 1st of July.

Cambridge’s outgoing vice-chancellor, Stephen Toope, was also paid £86,000 under the University’s 2022/23 accounts, with his post ending on the 30th of September 2022.

The report states that the vice-chancellor’s basic salary is 10.3 times the median pay of staff, while this multiplier increases to 10.4 times when considering the VC’s “total remuneration”.

Toope, Freeling’s predecessor, had an annual salary of £475,000. When asked by Varsity to justify this pay in 2022, the acting VC said: “You may think it’s an unreasonable amount but it’s what the best vice-chancellors get and it’s far less than they would get in North America.”

This year’s pay report includes a description of the University’s highest pay bands, which it says includes the vice-chancellor. The highest salary band in 2022/23 was £415,001-£420,000.

Elsie McDowell told Varsity: “At a time when so many students are struggling with the ongoing cost of living crisis, it is unbelievable that the University is willing to pay the vice-chancellor such an unnecessarily large sum of money.”


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During his term as vice-chancellor, Dr Freeling made headlines for his stance against the marking boycott when he wrote to academics “begging” them to drop their strike action last June. The acting VC told staff that more than half of Cambridge’s undergraduates were likely to be affected, saying that students need to “relax and celebrate” their results.

The boycott was not resolved until September last year, when it was dropped a few weeks before it was due to end.

Freeling also attracted controversy in October 2022 when he told Varsity that he doesn’t know what decolonisation is. The term “has been misused to such an extent that I don’t think, if I’m honest, I can give an accurate definition of what is meant by it,” he said. Freeling had previously said that decolonising the curriculum “holds a lot of value”.

The University of Cambridge was contacted for comment.