A CONTROVERISIAL £92,000 farewell pay packet granted to a former University of Warwick boss has sparked anger among staff and students.
More than 700 people have signed a petition to protest against the voluntary £92,000 leaving gift from the university to out-going Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Nigel Thrift’s – a move they argue is a ‘gross misjudgment’ and an ‘insult’ to staff and students alike.
Professor Sir Nigel Thrift was granted the money by a three-man Remuneration Committee as a ‘gift’ at the end of his spell as Vice-Chancellor.
But many have argued this goes against the University’s own guidelines which states staff members attaining 10 years’ service should be given a letter of thanks and a pen.
Speaking to the Observer, Student’s Union president Isaac Leigh condemned the pay packet and said it showed ‘complete contempt’ for students and staff at the University.
He added: “Student’s tuition fees, accommodation fees and living costs have risen and too many staff have had their pay frozen for years.
“So for someone who was already paid an awful amount of money – £348,000 a year not including expenses – the Remunration Committee’s decision flies in the face of the idea that Warwick University is a community.”
The online petition, hosted on change.org, describes the decision as ‘astonishingly inept and out-of-touch with ordinary people’s lives’ and calls on the Remuneration Committee to apologise to staff and students.
It demands an increase in student bursaries by £92,000 and for Professor Thrift to return the monetary parting gift – instead accepting the customary letter of thanks and pen.
A University spokesman said the financial gift was representative of Professor Thrift’s status as Warwick’s second longest serving Vice-Chancellor and his commitment to building the global reputation of the Russel Group university.
They added: “On leaving Warwick Sir Nigel made the generous decision to make a life-time pledge to donate at least £50,000 to the University of Warwick for the benefit of global student volunteering.”
But the Student’s Union has argued this donation is disingenuous, and little more than a ‘hollow PR gesture’.
Mr Leigh explained that as this money was not coming from Professor Thrift’s own pocket – rather from the university via himself, to go back to university coffers – it raised further questions about how much money the university had ‘squirreled away’.
He added: “The gesture is a good one, but it makes me question why for years we have been told that there is no more money in the pot to pay for postgraduate students who teach, when a huge sum of money can be suddenly found by three people.
“That money could instead fund three, full-time student mental health workers for a year, innumerable bursaries for junior doctors or students from low-income backgrounds.
“It is disheartening to know that key decisions like this are being made behind closed doors with no consideration for the message it sends out to the students whose spiralling fees pay for such arbitrary and excessive perks, nor the staff who quite simply deserve better.”
A University spokesperson refused to comment on the Student’s Union branding the £50,000 donation as ‘a hollow PR gesture.’
The latest petition comes just one year after students protested against Nigel Thrift’s £16,000 pay rise – his third increase in nine years, which brought his salary to what they called an ‘obscene’ £348,000.
Professor Sir Nigel Thrift has since been appointed executive director of the Schwarzman Scholars degree program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.