Unions have been angered by the growing pay gap between university heads and lecturers and accused vice-chancellors of advocating “double standards”.
Talks between university lecturers and employers have become increasingly strained after it emerged that vice-chancellors and principals enjoyed pay rises of up to 35% over the past three years, while lecturers received just 9%.
University heads on the board at the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association have received average pay increases of 32% since 2001, bringing their salaries to around £178,000 last year, according to the Association of University Teachers (AUT).
But during the same period, lecturers received average increases of just 9.44%.
The AUT said it was stunned by the figures, when average starting salaries for lecturers stood at less than £25,000.
Sally Hunt, AUT general secretary, said: “Vice-chancellors have consistently pleaded poverty when it comes to paying their staff, yet any suggestion of belt-tightening doesn’t seem to extend to their own pay.”
A university employers’ association spokesman said vice-chancellors’ pay reflected what it took to “attract, retain and reward individuals of sufficient calibre, experience and talent into an increasingly competitive international market”.