Provost set to receive 19 percent pay rise

The Provost, Dr. John Hegarty, is set to get a pay increase which will put his salary on a par with President Barack Obama’s. The payments, which were due to be paid in 2007, followed recommendations made in the O’Brien review on Higher Remuneration. The report also granted pay increases to over 400 professors in Ireland, as well as bursars, university secretaries and registrars among other professions. This report aimed to bring the salaries of members of the public sector inline with their international counter parts.

The review was established to “recommend remuneration rates for top public service posts which will enable the State to recruit, retain and motivate high-calibre people and reward them appropriately”.

It examined the salaries of members of An Garda Síochana, prison doctors, higher posts in third-level education and the Judiciary among others.
Following revelations of a number of unauthorised allowances paid by universities, the pay increases were withheld until the investigations into these allowances had been complete. Referring to allowances in the report, the group believed that the “Department of Education and Science should take the prime responsibility for ensuring that any unauthorised allowances are withdrawn and should take all necessary steps to resolve the situation without delay.”

The Department confirmed that the allowances of “each of the professors and staff were assessed on a case-by-case basis and where we were satisfied, the pay increase has now been awarded.”

The Department has since sanctioned all increases; however they have said that the Colleges themselves will be responsible for paying the increases, “if universities can manage it in their own budgets, not the Department of Finance”.

The College Communications Office has confirmed that the “pay increases were applied to the Provost’s salary arising from the implementation of the first phase of the Review Body Report 42 plus Towards 2016 Phases 3 & 4”.  When questioned, the office failed to comment on whether the Provost would be accepting or declining the increase.  The Office also failed to confirm his new salary.

However, Trinity News has learned that the Provost, along with three other NUI Presidents, is set to see his salary increase by 19% from €226,895 to €270,000.  The other NUI Presidents who will enjoy the large increase are Dr. Hugh Brady of University College Dublin, Dr. Michael Murphy of University College Cork and James Browne of National University of Ireland, Galway. Mr. Browne will see his salary increase by 30%, following his university’s move into the “higher salary band”.

This puts their salaries on a par with President Barack Obama’s, who earns $400,000 a year, roughly €271,000. The three university heads will earn more than An Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, who is currently earning just over €254,000, but they have yet to reach the heights of President McAleese, who earns €293,000.

The Presidents of the University of Limerick, Dublin City University and National University of Ireland, Maynooth will see their salaries increase by 14% to €236,000.

The report works on a two-tier salary system, differentiating each band by the “overall demands placed on Heads of universities”, using the “differences in areas such as student numbers, financial resources managed and the range of courses” as indicators to assess the impact. The report concluded that the “differences in the overall weight of jobs should be reflected in remuneration”.

It has also been reported that close to 400 university professors in Ireland will get a 5.5% increase in their salaries; however the exact number of Trinity professors remains unknown.  The salaries paid to university secretaries, registrars and bursars were also reviewed. It was concluded that those working in Trinity, UCD and UCC should see increases of 4.7% bringing their salaries to €169,000. The report stated: “It is our view that the important consideration in determining the remuneration of these posts is that the salary should be at an appropriate level between the salary levels of professors and Heads of universities.” It continued, saying: “We consider that the salary of these posts should be above that of professors but that there must be sufficient headroom between the salary of the Heads of a university and the salary of Registrars, Secretaries and Bursars to reflect the ultimate responsibility of the Head.”

Students’ Union Education Officer Ashley Cooke has said that while “it’s a personal choice” whether the Provost accepts the raise or not, the Students’ Union would “highly respect any college officer not taking a pay increase in the current circumstances”.

The report noted the important benchmarking between the salaries of Irish heads of universities compared to those on an international level: “We compared the salaries of the posts covered by our review with the salaries of the Heads of universities in the UK, in particular, and with posts below the level of university Head from which candidates for posts as university Head would be likely to be drawn.”

Dr. Séan Barrett, senior lecturer in the Department of Economics, commented in 2007, “The heads contribute nothing to the academic success of Irish universities and their students. It is an appalling period in Irish universities … their pay rises should be refused.”  He has spoken out again recently, saying “I have not changed my view on excessive pay rises. The situation is now worse in the public finances … Ireland needs reverse benchmarking to undo the harm of excessive pay rises at the top in the Irish public sector … As we cannot devalue we must cut public sector pay, especially at the top level.”

Reacting to the news of the pay increase, Mike Jennings, general secretary of the Irish Federation of University Teachers (IFUT), said: “This shows that the decision of those university heads to forfeit their allowances was really not a selfless act, but more of a pragmatic decision in order to achieve those high increases recommended by the O’Brien report.”

Speaking to Trinity News, Dr. Hugh Gibbons, Chair of the IFUT branch in the College, said he “doubted” his members would be happy about the pay increase: “There should be decreases in salaries by those who can afford it.” Commenting on the possible cut backs in December’s budget, Dr. Gibbons said, “If there’s going to be cutbacks, they should start at the top.” Referring to the recent cutbacks, Dr. Gibbons said “academics are already down 13% and are likely to be down a further 7 in the Budget.” Jennings echoed Dr. Gibbons’ comments, asking “How can the government have in mind a uniform rate of pay cuts across the board when we have people in receipt of such huge rises? Even if they take the cut, they are not suffering the way those who never received an increase are.”

Minister of Education and Science, Batt O’Keeffe has agreed with the Federation saying, “I would have exhorted the university presidents to take the appropriate cut. One would have expected that people in such senior positions would do the right thing.”