Bath students protest as vice chancellor resigns and gets HUGE payout
She's resigned after coming under fire for her £470,000 a year salary, but she'll continue to be paid until 2019.
Credit: Marieke Guy – Flickr
Students at the University of Bath marched through campus yesterday in protest at the six figure payout being given to the university's outgoing vice chancellor.
Dame Glynis Breakwell had been heavily criticised for her pay packet of over £450,000, and on Tuesday announced that she was stepping down from her position.
However, the details of her resignation have only added more fuel to the fire. Breakwell will vacate her role in August 2018, but will then enjoy a six month ‘sabbatical' during which she'll still receive her full salary.
She'll also have an interest-free £31,489 car loan written off and continue to live rent-free in her university-owned five-bedroom flat in the city's iconic Landsdown Crescent.
All of this comes despite the university publicly stating that Breakwell would receive “no payments for loss of employment”.
How did students take the news?
Credit: Stewart Black – Flickr
The university's students have reacted furiously to what they see as a ‘golden handshake' for a vice chancellor who was already the highest paid in the UK, and whose salary amounts to three times that of the prime minister.
At a time when tuition fees are at an all-time high, and 84% of students are worrying about making ends meet, Breakwell's salary and subsequent pay-off are made to look even more substantial than they already are.
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Hundreds took to the campus to protest, and the organiser, Jessica Louise, didn't hold back when addressing the crowds.
We are tired of everything being about Glynis and being about senior management, when it should be about us – the students.
We see right through their bullsh*t to the truth: that Glynis will leave here taking over half a million pounds of our money, and that isn’t right.
Bath Students Against Fees and Cuts, a group heavily involved in the demonstrations, said that the problem was far bigger than just the vice chancellor. They believe that the entire board of governors should be replaced, with more input allowed from students.
The group also demanded that a 10:1 pay ratio should be introduced at the university. This system would ensure that the salary of the highest paid employee is never more than 10 times that of the lowest paid member of staff.
Many of the protesters took aim at Breakwell's now infamous expenses claim for a £2 packet of biscuits. There were chants of “two, four, six, eight, how many biscuits will it take?”, as well as biscuits being distributed and thrown around, and even a few no-nonsense placards…
Remarkably we're yet to see anyone call her ‘Cherry Breakwell', or describe her huge pay-off for resigning as ‘having her cake and eating it too'. If you see anyone using them in the next few days, just know that they've nicked those puns from us.
Oh, and because it's the most wonderful time of year, one protester even dressed as Santa and held up a sign saying “Senior management are ALL on the naughty list!”
How has the public reacted?
It's fair to say that Bath's students weren't alone in responding to the news with anger.
Back in August, several MPs resigned from their roles at the university to protest the vice chancellor's salary, describing it at the time as “eye-watering”.
Many also pointed to the disparity between Breakwell's pay packet, and that of staff on the university's lowest pay grade. The latter earn approximately £15,000 a year, which amounts to just 4% of Breakwell's annual salary.
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Following the vice chancellor's resignation, key political figures once again voiced their disgust at the sums of money involved.
Labour peer and former Education Minister, Andrew Adonis, is an outspoken figure when it comes to higher education, and he described the terms of Breakwell's departure as “outrageous”.
BATH UNI: Look at small print: the terms on which the VC is departing are outrageous. She is staying as a lame duck until next August & will then be on full pay for ANOTHER SIX MONTHS (‘sabbatical') – ie she will be paid about £700,000 to go. This is the real story
— Andrew Adonis (@Andrew_Adonis) November 28, 2017
The vice chancellor's response
Credit: Andy Powell – Flickr
As we reported back in February, the average salary of a UK vice chancellor is now a whopping £277,000 a year. Last year, 24 unis gave their VCs a 10% pay rise, and the University of Brighton even increased their vice chancellor's salary by 31%.
Prior to the protests, and in her first interview since announcing her resignation, Glynis Breakwell continue to defend not only her salary, but also those of several other high-earning vice chancellors.
Responding to the suggestion that she must feel her salary of over £450,000 is acceptable, she said:
I think the amount that I’m being paid is actually associated with the sort of global competition that exists now for leadership within universities.
When the interviewer pressed her further, and asked if it would have been possible to have done a good job for £150,000, Breakwell simply answered:
Somebody could, yes.
Amid all this anger, it seems as though Breakwell is content with just taking the biscuit.