The news that University Vice-Chancellor Brian Cantor’s salary increased by an inflation-busting 8% last year will no doubt be greeted with derision by many students. This is with some justification. Despite being responsible for the day-to-day running of the University, very little is ever seen or heard of Cantor, and, frankly, there are many students who do not know who he is.
Therefore, such a large salary increase, especially in the midst of a recession and spiralling graduate debt, appears excessive. And while final-year students like myself are faced with a shrinking employment market, there are probably many of us who think we could do a better job of management than our current academic-in-chief.
However, despite his prestigious position and strong academic reputation, Cantor’s pay packet in 2006-07 was only slightly above the national average for university chiefs, which also rose by 8%. Meanwhile, academics have also enjoyed a growing slice of the pie, with recent annual wage increases of 6%.
This seems somewhat at odds with repeated claims made by universities of a lack of funding and resources; political pressure that led to the introduction of top-up fees in 2006. Here at York, despite the wage rises and significant capital investment – noisy construction work, to you and me – total income rose by 16% last year, while the operating surplus increased four-fold.
Reading these figures, one would think the University, its campus, and even its students were positively glowing with wealth. Yet, although money has been spent on improving facilities like the library, the sports centre and a certain campus bar, the overwhelming sense is of a tired and dreary campus occupied by students lacking cash in their wallets.
Gym and sport-club membership fees have skyrocketed and library fines continue to rise unabated. Meanwhile, essential maintenance and replacement of footpaths and bridges has been painfully slow in coming.
York remains a prestigious university for both teaching and research, and the Heslington East development should ensure the survival of this reputation. Only then will the financial rewards offered to senior management be justified.