Senior staff pay

The Office for Students does not have legal powers to regulate the pay of senior staff in the higher education sector directly.

But we have a duty to take into account the value for money higher education providers offer for the public money they receive.

For this reason, we publish analysis about senior staff pay at higher education providers. You can find the data supporting this analysis on the HESA website.

We require providers to disclose information about senior staff pay data, decision making arrangements and justifications. Providers must:

We set out full details in our guidance on preparing and publishing financial statements.

Latest analysis

Read our latest report on senior staff remuneration in English higher education providers during the 2019-20 academic year.

The analysis we have published covers pay to the heads of higher education providers. It does not include further education or sixth form colleges.

The analysis covers the academic year 2019-20 and where we now have data for previous years, we have considered changes over the past four years.

Previous analysis (2017-18)

Get the 2017-18 data

What did the data show?

Staff on £100,000 or more

  • The proportion of staff paid a basic salary of £100,000 or more in 2017-18 was 1.5 per cent across all providers. This compares with 1.3 per cent in 2016-17.

Heads of provider

  • The total amount paid in basic salary to the heads of provider in 2017-18 ranged from £87,000 to £470,000. The average salary paid was £253,000. This is a rise of 3.2 per cent on the average for the previous year of £245,000.
  • Total remuneration paid to the heads of provider in 2017-18 ranged from £90,000 to £718,000. The average remuneration paid was £299,000. This compares with £293,000 in 2016-17.

Head of provider pay and average staff salaries

  • Pay ratios that show the relationship between the head of provider’s basic salary and that of all other employees, ranged from 3.0 to 13.4. The median across all providers was 7.2. When based on total remuneration the range was 2.9 to 12.8, with a median of 7.7.
  • For some providers the pay multiple based on total remuneration is lower than the pay multiple based on basic salary due to the head of provider not attracting pension contributions.

Compensation for loss of office

  • Total payments for compensation for loss of office across all providers in 2017-18 totalled £151 million. This represents less than 1 per cent of total staff costs. Across all providers the average payment for loss of office made to a member of staff was £17,554 in 2017-18, a 16.1 per cent increase on the previous year.

About the data

Where does the data come from?

The data is collected through an annual survey returned to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), and corresponds to data disclosed within providers’ audited financial statements, usually in the ‘staff costs’ note or in the ‘statement of corporate governance’.

The OfS’s accounts direction sets out the information that providers are required to include in their audited financial statements.

What does the data show?

The data shows the total amount paid in basic salary and total remuneration to the heads of provider in each year. For providers where there has been a change in head during the year, the amount reported is the sum of the payments to each head.

Particular care needs to be taken when interpreting the data of these providers, and it may be helpful to refer to the information disclosed in the provider’s financial statements to help understand the figures presented.

What are 'basic salary' and 'total remuneration'?

Basic salary includes salary paid in lieu of pension contributions, which is received by some heads of providers depending on their personal pension and tax circumstances. Such payments are essentially additional salary but are not accounted for as such.

Total remuneration means basic salary plus: performance-related pay and other bonuses, pension contributions, salary sacrifice arrangements, compensation for loss of office, other taxable benefits, non-taxable benefits, and payment of any other remuneration to the head of provider.

Which staff are included in pay ratios?

The OfS’s accounts direction requires providers to include contract and agency staff in the calculation of the pay ratios. But providers were given discretion to exclude these staff from the calculation for 2017-18 where there were difficulties in accessing the necessary information.

This means that the pay ratios for some providers include agency staff, and for some providers the ratios exclude agency staff. Users of the data will need to refer to the provider’s financial statements to understand the method used.

Differences between data sources

There appear to be differences between the data that some providers submitted to HESA and their disclosures in the audited financial statements. For example, the reporting of taxable and non-taxable benefits were not always fully disclosed in the HESA record, or at least not disclosed in a way which mirrors the data in the financial statements.

Contact us

For any questions about senior staff pay please email [email protected]

Last updated 12 November 2021
12 November 2021
Updated with the latest data

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