Jo Johnson the Universities Minister has stoked the fire in the uproar surrounding VC’s pay and is up for a fight it would seem.
Slightly pre-empting Nicola Dandridge the recently appointed inaugural Chief Executive of the Office for Students (not a software package but the replacement for HEFCE and the OFFA) which starts operations in April 2018, he has asked for Universities to publicly justify how they can pay their heads more than the prime minister.
Easy, most will say, because they do a better job than the prime minister. And when was the prime minister's salary a yardstick. Don’t they make their money from their memoirs?
Perhaps the pay levels reflect a society where education is not a right in itself but a consumer service for which we pay and where the justice system is a ‘service’ with various ‘stakeholders’. Market forces apply and Universities compete for talent, whatever that is
Credit where it is due, there does not appear to be a BBC sized gender pay gap with Prof Dame Glynis Breakwell of the University Bath being the Chris Evans’ of VC’s (but perhaps without the same level of public approval) . I suspect students go to Bath not because of the Professor Dame but because of the work of its lesser known academics who are more in the Emily Maitlis bracket . Public scrutiny must be overdue.
But is there any legal basis for this intervention and does it signal a change in policy on fat feline pay? The BBC intervention was part of the renewal of its Royal Charter and Johnson minor's challenge is simple flag waving for the powers that the Office for Students may be given in regulating Higher Education. So the answer is that this is more politics than employment law and one only has to consider the watered down nature of Gender Pay Gap reporting to appreciate the level of intervention the government has a stomach for.