Universities would lose control over the salaries of vice-chancellors under a plan floated by Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm.
“Australian public universities are crying poor while the average salary package for their vice-chancellors is now almost $900,000,” Senator Leyonhjelm told the HES yesterday.
“Last year 11 of them earned more than $1 million.”
His party plans to introduce amendments to the government’s $2.8 billion higher education savings bill that would give the Remuneration Tribunal control over vice-chancellors’ salaries to ensure they are “financially viable” for the institution.
Already controversial, the high salaries of university chiefs have been seized on by Education Minister Simon Birmingham in his political struggle with the sector.
I have two theories:
- The Australian confused David Leyonhjelm of the LDP with British Overseas Citizen “Senator” Nick Xenophon.
- David Leyonhjelm has been infected by a very, very bad case of statism.
Central wage setting is an IR system that Australia abandoned some decades ago and while I understand nostalgia – being of a certain age myself – one should restrict nostalgia to 80s music and some movies.
To be blunt the Remuneration Tribunal cannot possibly be the solution to over-paid VCs because it already overpays politicians, public servants, and judges. Why will it be any different for universities?
Now the problem is this – Australian universities have a governance problem. That problem manifests itself in many ways – one symptom being over-paid VCs. It manifests itself in other ways too – far, far too many people on staff who do not, will not, and cannot actually teach or research. To be clear – some support staff are necessary and universities run on a core of people who ensure the day to day operations of the organisation run smoothly.
Universities should be run in the interests of students and not in the interests of senior management or in the interests of the federal education minister.
That means two changes need to be made:
- The academic boards of universities must be made up of individuals who out number senior management on the board and of individuals whose careers and promotion are not beholden to senior management. In short – full professors of the university.
- University Councils must be elected by alumni and financial donors. Now there is a good argument for ex officio appointments and the like, but a majority of council members should be elected by the ultimate customers of the organisation – the students.
Having the government set wages is not LDP policy and should not become LDP policy. If the government wants to reform Universities it should start by linking HECS payments to good university governance and, of course, the abolition of the abomination that is compulsory student unionism.