Thursday , May 19 2022

Are Australian university principals worth a million dollars?



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UNSW vice-chancellor Ian Jacobs is a world-renowned cancer expert.

UNSW vice-chancellor Ian Jacobs is a world-renowned cancer expert.

The University of Sydney parliament is being tipped to pick an overseas candidate to replace Dr Spence, as most heads of leading Australian institutions are either new to the job, retiring or too much of an opponent for poaching, like Ian Jacobs University of NSW.

The salary will help attract candidates from a top 100 or even top 50 organization, as industry insiders say Sydney is likely to want an experienced executive to help it navigate the disruption caused by COVID- 19.

Australian vice-chancellors earn their counterparts in the United Kingdom, where salaries are also a comfortable issue. They also earn more than the governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia ($ 1 million) and the prime minister ($ 549,250).

Last year, the median salary of ASX 100 chief executives was $ 1.76 million.

Macquarie University accounting professor James Guthrie, who calculated the salaries, described them as ridiculously high. “These are public sector universities, so they should be treated as public servants,” he said.

But others say Australian universities are huge by international standards – the University of Sydney has more than 70,000 students, compared to 43,900 at Dr Spence’s next university – and running them requires a rare set of skills.

Australia's vice-chancellors are highly paid, and include: University of Sydney (Michael Spence) on the left;  University of Melbourne (Duncan Maskell);  University of NSW (Ian Jacobs);  University of Wollongong (Paul Wellings) and University of Western Australia (Amit Chakma).

Australia’s vice-chancellors are highly paid, and include: University of Sydney (Michael Spence) on the left; University of Melbourne (Duncan Maskell); University of NSW (Ian Jacobs); University of Wollongong (Paul Wellings) and University of Western Australia (Amit Chakma).

“I think most of them earn their money,” said Steven Schwartz, who has been vice-chancellor at three universities. “The University of Sydney is huge. I don’t think people really understand how huge it is. It’s not big by Australian standards alone, it’s big by world standards. ”

When universities appoint vice-chancellors, most choose someone with academic ancestry, says Professor Schwartz. Professor Jacobs is a world-renowned cancer specialist, and Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University holds the Nobel Prize.

“People like that come with the built-in respect of the academic community,” said Professor Schwartz.

But vice-chancellors also had to deal with politicians, donors, students and foreign governments. “These constituencies have conflicting demands,” said Professor Schwartz, a fellow at the Center for Independent Studies. “[The donors] want people to win Nobel prizes.

“Students want excellent teaching, people who are worried about their progress. The government wants everything done as cheaply as possible. Balancing the requirements of the different groups is sometimes the hardest of all. ”

Jillian Broadbent says that university vice-chancellors should not be paid as public servants.

Jillian Broadbent says that university vice-chancellors should not be paid as public servants.Credit:Nick Moir

Andrew Norton, professor of higher education practice at the Australian National University, said it was a demanding job.

“You need to be able to manage a large institution, you need to deal with a difficult major client, the Commonwealth government, and you need to deal with a ruthless international student market,” he said.

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“I don’t think they should be paid peanuts, but I think a million and more is creating a lot of problems that the sector doesn’t need. It creates resentment from staff, and [members of Parliament] shrieking. It’s bullets for anyone who thinks universities have lost their way. “

Salvatore Babones, a university commentator and sociologist from the University of Sydney, said university presidents in the US are earning as much or more, but that they have to raise billions of dollars in donations as well.

“Senior administrators have told us academics that we believe we should benchmark our salaries to Australian civil service pay,” he said. “I don’t see why vice-chancellors should not be benchmarked in the same way.”

But Jillian Broadbent, former chancellor of the University of Wollongong and a business leader, said vice-chancellors should not be classified as public servants, as they have more responsibility.

“They are chief executive,” he said. “Civil service jobs are under paid. But they are under the minister’s direction. The vice-chancellor is given much more autonomy than the head of department. ”

The Australian University Teachers Association argues that VC pay should be double the salary of a teacher, which would equate to $ 360,000 a year.

Dr Spence finishes at the end of the year. Provost Stephen Garton will be acting vice-chancellor until someone else is announced. “The search for our new Vice-Chancellor is continuing and we hope to have an update this year,” said a Sydney University spokesman.

“The package will be discussed with the successful candidate at the relevant time. We expect it to reflect the size of the role and the size of our organization and take into account all relevant skills and experience of the successful candidate. ”

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