Calculating Vice Chancellors’ salaries and senior executive remuneration in Australian public sector universities is challenging.

I have reviewed over 6,000 pages of Australian public universities’ 2021 annual reports and financial statements to extract the information in the table below.

I searched for actual salary disclosures and then disclosures via bands. That is, something ending with 999 or 000 would usually be a band. These bands are set by the “owners” of public universities, that is, state and territory governments. This is done for transparency in terms of remuneration of senior public employees.

In interpreting the table, we need to be wary of changing vice-chancellor employment over the three years as this distorts remuneration. For instance, a vice-chancellor may start in May and have eight months of remuneration recorded. There were 22 changes to vice-chancellor appointments in these three years.

In August 2021, the University Chancellors Council (UCC) released a voluntary code to benchmark the salaries of university vice-chancellors and promised to benchmark senior executive salaries in public universities. The Australian Universities Vice-Chancellor and Senior Staff Remuneration Code 2021 states that:

“It is recognised that transparency is an important part of good practice remuneration ensuring that decision bodies, processes and outcomes are openly explained and presented to all stakeholders.”

Embedded in the code is the requirement that vice-chancellors be held to account for performance and that their base remuneration should be appropriate for the role and related to their institution’s successful delivery of financial and non‐financial goals. Additional short and long-term “at risk” remuneration may be offered but always against clear, measurable targets to be delivered over and above the base remuneration.

There has been no publicly available information; we have seen none of this activity. In examining the public university annual reports for 2021, there are no disclosures per the voluntary code. The only disclosure of vice-chancellors’ remuneration I found that was not in the financial statements and bands was that of  Western Sydney University as follows:

“Professor Barney Glover AO, Position: Vice-Chancellor and President Total Remuneration Package: $988,380 Period in Position: Full Year, Results: Met all objectives”. Performance objectives and targets are not further identified.

Turning to the highest paid vice-chancellor in Australia, The University of Melbourne’s Professor Duncan Maskell’s salary is $1,469,999, a pay cut of $44,000 from 2020. He is also the Director of the Grattan Institute, Melbourne Business School and the Melbourne Theatre Company, a board member of the Group of Eight and Universities Australia, a non-executive director of CSL Limited, and an ex-officio member of the university’s companies and controlled entities. While any remuneration for board memberships is not disclosed, non-executive directors of large publicly listed companies such as CSL can receive in the vicinity of $1,000,000.

If universities are indeed publicly owned and operate in the public interest, then greater transparency and accountability about vice-chancellors’ salaries are necessary.

The UCC should act on its code. It should oversee and administer appropriate and transparent remuneration of vice-chancellors and senior staff. The time for the UCC to talk about transparency is over ‒ it should act now, given that universities are engaged in enterprise bargaining and have seen significant staff cuts. The UCC needs to make good on its promise to “… support member Universities in this transition through:

* provision of best practice templates for the reporting of remuneration.

* sharing experiences of implementation and ongoing refinement of governance and reporting.

* provision of sector wide vice chancellor and senior remuneration data by the UCC including a sector annual report distributed to all members.

* report annually (Q2) each year on adoption of the UCC code.

* biennially review the effectiveness and currency of this code.”

The University Chancellors Council must act now to deliver on the purpose of the code.

Emeritus Professor James Guthrie AM, Professor of Accounting, Macquarie Business School


Institution State 2019 Gross salary AUD 2020 Gross salary AUD 2021 Gross salary AUD
Australian Catholic University Multiple 1,359,999 1,349,999 1,089,999*
Australian National University ACT 649,396 559,973 609,676
Central Queensland University QLD 779,998* 779,999 884,999
Charles Darwin University NT 564,999 1,184,999 629,990*
Charles Sturt University NSW 889,998 568,656 800,000*
Curtin University WA 990,000 580,000 650,000*
Deakin University VIC 829,999* 949,999 859,999
Edith Cowan University WA 890,000 910,000 890,000
Federation University Australia VIC 889,999 559,999* 839,999
Flinders University SA 1,179,999 1,229,999 1,229,999
Griffith University QLD 864,999* 879,999 1,029,999
James Cook University QLD 989,999 959,999 899,999
La Trobe University VIC 980,000 889,999 889,999
Macquarie University NSW 1,089,000 1,059,999 1,059,999
Monash University VIC 1,289,999 1,319,999 1,129,999
Murdoch University WA 1,000,000 1,010,000 CND*
Queensland University of Technology QLD 1,189,999 1,209,999 1,079,999
RMIT University VIC 999,999 1,099,999 CND*
Southern Cross University NSW 779,999 569,999* 749,999
Swinburne University of Technology VIC 1,009,999 777, 000* 709,999
The University of Adelaide SA 1,104,999 939,999 CND*
The University of Melbourne VIC 1,499,999 1,514,999 1,469,999
The University of New England NSW 639,999* 699,999 679,999
The University of Newcastle NSW 859,999 869,999 869,999
The University of Notre Dame Australia WA 619,999 659,999* CND
The University of Queensland QLD 1,214,999 974,999* 1,214,999
The University of Sydney NSW 1,620,778 1,530,857 1,169,999*
The University of Western Australia WA 959,999 979,000* 923,000
University of Canberra ACT 979,999 539,999* 949,999
University of Divinity VIC 269,999 229,999 309,998
University of New South Wales NSW 1,329,999 1,449,999 1,515,000
University of South Australia SA 1,269,998 1,202,000 1,219,000
University of Southern Queensland QLD 689,999 719,999 719,999
University of Tasmania TAS 1,079,998 1,079,998 989,999
University of Technology Sydney NSW 1,099,999 1,099,999 1,079,999*
University of the Sunshine Coast QLD 849,999 579,999* 929,999
University of Wollongong NSW 1,209,998 1,269,998 799,998*
Victoria University VIC 719,999* 849,999 819,999
Western Sydney University NSW 1,009,999 969,999 988,380

Source: 2019-2021 Annual and Financial Reports

Note 1:  salary bands were disclosed in  annual reports, the high end of the pay has been used for the table

Note 2: the majority of universities disclosed vice chancellor salary under the section “Remuneration of Executive Officers/Key Management Personnel”. Unless the report stated otherwise, it was assumed that VCs were not entitled to additional remuneration due to also being a council member.

Note 3: * represent years in which the VC may have not served for the full calendar year. Those highlighted  affects year-to-year remuneration comparisons,  assumption that the year’s highest remunerated officer was the VC.

Note 4: CND means cannot determine


to get daily updates on what's happening in the world of Australian Higher Education