Each public university in New South Wales is required to follow the NSW Annual Reports (Statutory Bodies) Regulation 2015 and provide a report of proceedings and financial statements. Under these regulations, university senior staff remunerations are required to be disclosed in bands.

In determining the remuneration packages of the ten public universities in New South Wales, we have examined the disclosures in the 2019 report. The vice chancellor remunerations for the sake of discussion are rounded (see, Table 1 below). This was for the calendar year ended in 2019, and following is the remunerations for each VC: Charles Sturt University $.83m, Macquarie University $1.1m, Southern Cross University $.78m, University of Sydney $1.6m, University of Newcastle $.86m, University of New England $.64m, University of New South Wales $1.4m, University of Technology Sydney $1.1m, University of Wollongong $1m, Western Sydney University $1.1m.

Only a couple of vice-chancellors disclosed bonuses. For instance, Uni Sydney, whose VC has been employed for 12 years reports a combined remuneration of $1, 620, 778, and this includes a performance bonus of $232,671. Performance bonuses which may be paid or payable annually depending on the achievement of pre-determined individual performance targets as agreed by the Chancellor and approved by the Senate. Several other universities report that their VCs were paid no additional bonuses.

In terms of accounting for vice-chancellor’s remuneration, Uni Sydney announced a 20 per cent pay cut to senior executives’ incomes as part of its pandemic response. However, how this was calculated was revealed in a recent New South Wales Legislative Council enquiry into higher education in the state.

In response to a question on notice from David Shoebridge MLC the university responded, “the 20 per cent reduction in remuneration was an amount of $166,453. The Vice-Chancellor’s total pay will be disclosed in the university’s annual report after the end of the 2020 financial year.”

Therefore, we determine that the 2019 base salary and performance bonus were only used in this calculation which is roughly 50 per cent of the total remuneration package.

We can only speculate why Australian vice-chancellors are amongst the highest paid in the world.

One reason might be the need to attract the best VCs in the world; however, if we take Uni Sydney’s Spence, as an example, at $1.6m, we note that VC Spence is taking a pay cut of more than 50 per cent in his new job as VC of the UK’s elite University College London, (now known as UCL). UCL ranks 16th in the world on the new Times Higher Education ranking, and this is 45 places higher than Uni Sydney.

Our interest in this matter arose because of remuneration disclosures and  we wrote to the NSW Auditor General, the body responsible for overseeing the accounts of Macquarie University with the following request:

“S Bruce Dowton remuneration and salary package. Professor Dowton joined the university in September 2012. His base salary was just over $1m to year-end 2018, plus a significant housing benefit, which he rents to the university, plus possible other various boards and other fees from the numerous university-controlled entities including MQ Health Pty Ltd. … Also, the VCs outside activities related to other organisations that may involve a fee to service.”

The Auditor-General, Margaret Crawford, indicated in response that their responsibility was for only financial statement audit. However, these remuneration bands for senior executives are in footnotes to these financial statements.

Therefore, we call upon each of the New South Wales universities to adequately disclose their VCs and key management personnel compensation figures for 2020. Also, the auditor general forms a view that these have been appropriately calculated and disclosed in her report on New South Wales Universities for 2020.

Finally, a vote of the Australian Association of University Professors was that a VCs remuneration should be a professorial salary plus 100 per cent (e.g. professors $180,000 x2 $360000).

Professor Tom Smith and Distinguished Professor James Guthrie AM, FCPA Macquarie U Business School 

Vice-Chancellor name Date appointed Gross salary AUD $ Institution   rounding millions
Professor Andrew Vann* December 2011 827,171 Charles Sturt University 0.83
Professor S Bruce Dowton September 2012 1,089,000 Macquarie University 1.1
Professor Adam Shoemaker* 2016 779,999 Southern Cross University 0.78
Dr Michael Spence 2008 1,620,778 The University of Sydney 1.6
Professor Alex Zelinsky November 2018 859,999 University of Newcastle 0.86
Professor Brigid Heywood 2019 639,999 University of New England 0.64
Professor Ian Jacobs 2015 1,329,999 University of New South Wales 1.4
Professor Attila Brungs July 2014 1,099,999 University of Technology Sydney 1.1
Professor Paul Wellings January 2012 1,000,000 University of Wollongong 1.1
Professor Barney Glover January 2014 1,099,999 University of Western Sydney 1.1

* resigned this year


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