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UK's least transparent universities named and shamed

31 January 2017
  • Ahead of report on university heads' pay and perks, union names the institutions ignoring Freedom of Information requests
  • Union has reported eight to the Information Commissioner's Office and warned others to review their practices
  • UCU says it's unacceptable for universities receiving taxpayers' money to escape scrutiny

UCU has named and shamed the UK's least transparent universities. A total of 13 institutions* refused to provide details of the vice-chancellor's pay and perks in response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request from the union. Some institutions have failed to respond for a second successive year.

Five of those institutions used exemptions under the FoI Act to avoid answering all questions asked by the union. UCU has written to those institutions asking them to review their refusal decisions.

The other eight institutions failed to provide any response at all to UCU's request or follow-up attempt. The union has reported them to the Information Commissioner's Office.

University vice-chancellors' pay and perks have long been a source of frustration for staff and government ministers, with huge sums of public money being squandered on hefty salary increases and top class travel.

The union said greater sanctions were needed to ensure universities justified some of the largesse that has embarrassed higher education in recent years.

The union will be releasing its latest pay and perks survey later this month and said that universities should not escape the spotlight by refusing to answer legitimate questions about their finances and how they spend public money.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'Freedom of Information legislation is important in holding universities that spend millions of pounds of public money to account.

'Students and their families are spending more than ever on the costs of going to university with tuition fees set to rise even higher at some institutions from September. In this context, universities should be as open as possible about their spending.

'It is not acceptable that some universities simply refuse to comply with the law by dodging Freedom of Information requests. We believe the time has come for a national register of pay and perks in our universities. We have written to the Information Commissioner's Office and we would like to see greater sanctions on those universities that blatantly ignore these requests or try to wriggle out of their responsibilities with exemptions.'

* Eight of the 161 institutions failed to respond to UCU's FoI request:

University of Bolton (also failed to respond last year)

University of Coventry (used an exemption last year to avoid answering any questions)

University of Cranfield

Edge Hill University (also failed to respond last year)

University of Roehampton

Rose Bruford College (also failed to respond last year)

University of Southampton (also failed to respond last year)

Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance 

Five institutions used exemptions under the FoI Act to avoid answering all questions:

Anglia Ruskin (failed to respond at all last year)
Birmingham City University
University of Hull
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
University of St Andrews