Falmouth Vice-Chancellor’s Controversial Pay Rise

Jack Hope, Online Opinions Editor, investigates the BBCs claims into the salary of the Vice-Chancellor of Falmouth University and argues for more funding for equipment for Falmouth students.


Writing this article has been extremely difficult, not only in concept but in reality. It all began with an article published by the BBC about the supposed pay rise of £57,381 for the Vice-Chancellor of Falmouth University. Of course, upon reading this article, I was outraged and felt that a follow-up article needed to be written. In the interest of fair reporting I reached out to Ms Carlisle, who responded with openness and honesty. Much has been said on this issue and so I’d like to clarify a couple of things.

Firstly, upon asking Ms Carlisle about the figures she said they had been ‘distorted’, explaining that, through series of details, such as performance related pay and employers paying into her pension scheme, they were incorrect. I don’t doubt her on this and furthermore, the Vice-Chancellor argues that the BBC are conducting an investigation into misreporting.

However, the focus of the BBC article was not the pay rise, but rather her huge, some would argue extortionate, salary. Although Ms Carlisle has explained that the figures have been ‘distorted’, upon asking her twice, she has failed, at the time of writing, to confirm her actual salary. Upon further investigation I found the figures published in the university ‘Consolidated financial statements’ 2014-15 report and the ‘emoluments’ (salary) paid was £248,090.00 with a £34,981.00 pension contribution. I also found that three other members of staff received ‘remuneration’ (payment) between £110,000 – £150,000.00 Another interesting set of figures I came across was that 48% of the university’s income was spent on staff whilst 19% was spent on ‘buildings and equipment’. I would like to pose the question; shouldn’t, these incomes be reduced in order to provide more materials and benefits for students?

I’d like to take this opportunity to say that Ms Carlisle is by no means alone; many Vice-Chancellors and other senior staff across university institutions are paid enormous salaries; which I personally believe to be wrong.

However, I focus upon Falmouth University because, as the top UK Arts University, shouldn’t they be paving the way to allocate more funding to their students given their need for materials to complete their degree? Should students who study the arts have to pay more than those who don’t? Who has the right to say that education in the arts should be less accessible than other disciplines?

For instance, I am a humanities student at Exeter University and pay to be educated, just like a Falmouth student. However, unlike a Falmouth student, I do not have to pay (indirectly) to submit my work. Where an essay submission is completely free for a humanities student, a photography student’s deadline requires that they pay for printing the photos, a box to put them in and all the workbooks they need to show their development in. This creates a hugely expensive endeavour.

Fundamentally, shouldn’t the process of handing in work to an institution that we, as students, pay to attend, be free?

Although, as the Vice-Chancellor pointed out, there are bursaries for the students most in need of financial contributions, this doesn’t rectify the problem of having to effectively pay to be graded on a course one pays to attend. This, in my view, is wrong.

Ms Carlisle works very hard, along with her senior team, but I do not personally believe she works 9.2 and 14.6 times harder than people earning the national or Cornwall average salaries (£27,000 and £17,000 respectively). Ms Carlisle has achieved some awesome achievements in office, including climbing many places in university rankings and achieving EU funding for students wanting to create new start-ups and I’m not disputing this. I’m merely questioning how much worth is should be given to this.

I do believe that Ms Carlisle has been victimised by the media because that’s what the mainstream media do to make a story. I’m first inline to applaud her on disclosing her finances in some detail on the university financial report and strongly believe others should follow.  Due to a number of circumstances the figures can be misconstrued as a large pay rise for Ms Carlisle, as the BBC reported; however, what is certain are the ‘emoluments’ received by the Vice-Chancellor. This is what I believe the BBC article was focused on and trying to draw attention to, as am I.

Annex: if anyone has any queries on the numbers or information published, please feel free to contact me at onlineopinions@falmouth-anchor.co.uk and I can provide you with further information and sources.


1. A letter from the Vice-Chancellor to Jack Hope, reproduced below: 

For the attention of Jack Hope, Falmouth Anchor

The following must be printed in full, or not at all


Dear Jack

I am pleased to respond to your request, as it allows me to correct the misleading reporting that started with the Times Higher Education (THE) magazine.

My salary has most definitely not increased by £57,931 in 2015.  This erroneous figure has been arrived at by misinterpretation of financial data in the following ways:

Firstly, what has not been made clear is that I voluntarily decided to take what amounted to an effective pay cut in 2014 of £25,548 by choosing not to accept a performance-related award. This meant that any comparison made by THE between my earnings in 2014 and 2015 would inevitably be distorted. Had I not decided to do what I did in 2014, the percentage difference between my salary over the two years would have been un-noteworthy, as evidenced by the same comparison between my earnings in 2013 and 2014. The fact is that I earned more in 2013 than I did in 2014 because I chose not to accept any performance-related award, but this same decision artificially inflates the difference in my pay between 2014 and 2015.

But the difference is further distorted by the media’s reporting of my employer’s contribution to my retirement pension as part of my salary. My employer’s contribution to pension is not salary and was awarded to me at exactly the same percentage as all other staff at the University. All staff in Higher Education will understand their pension as a future benefit, and they would never expect to see their employer’s contributions to their pension being defined as part of their current salary. Yet this is what these reports have done to me.

In response to your question about why I should be paid more than the VC of Edinburgh: it is a matter of conjecture as to whether VCs’ pay should be in line with student numbers, and there is no clear correlation in the UK at present. However, many universities use performance levels as their measure. For instance, Caltech, one of the most successful global universities, despite having only 2,200 students, has some of the highest paid Higher Education leaders and staff in the world.  If you examine the latest UK VC Pay Tables, you will see salaries much bigger than mine for VCs at universities well below Falmouth in the league tables, as well as salaries much greater than mine for universities that are smaller than Falmouth. The Guardian’s league table (published 23 May 2016, after you initially wrote to me) places Falmouth at 21st, one place above Edinburgh University.

In the latest VC Pay Tables, in terms of VC salaries, I am ranked 64th out of 159 institutional leaders. This compares very reasonably with Falmouth’s current newspaper league table rankings: 21st in The Guardian, 56th in the Sunday Times, and 58th in the Complete University Guide. So, looking at the Guardian’s 2017 table and the Times Higher’s VC Pay table, there are only 20 universities ranked above Falmouth, but 63 VCs are paid more than me.

In the Times Higher Education’s own student satisfaction survey, Falmouth was ranked 11th in the UK this year, for the second consecutive year, and is now the highest ranked Arts University in the three main UK league tables. Of all of these, I am particularly proud to have led Falmouth 55 places up The Guardian’s table in the last three years to achieve a ranking within the Top 25 of all UK universities.

You kindly acknowledge that I work hard. My role as Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive of the University is wide-ranging, and is focused on the long-term sustainability and success of the University in an increasingly competitive market. In respect of another very important measure, namely our ability to recruit students, Falmouth University is currently the second fastest growing modern university in the UK. But as well as responsibility for student recruitment, retention and graduate success, I also lead on major, multi-million pound funding initiatives linked to UK Government and EU funds.

For example, I have myself led the creation and development of Falmouth’s Launchpad Graduate Incubation Programme, which has included securing major external funding to support graduate entrepreneurs to establish new creative businesses here in Cornwall. In so doing, I am effectively establishing the university’s first ‘endowment fund’, designed to create a substantial financial legacy to invest in future graduates. This initiative is not part of what I am contracted to do as Falmouth’s Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive, but I have chosen to do this because I strongly believe it is not enough to offer excellent courses, which conclude with the award of a degree. Falmouth should also help its students after they graduate to launch themselves into the world of work by helping them set up new high-growth, creative businesses.

I would also like to make it clear that I do not determine my salary or benefits. Falmouth’s Board of Governors determines this independently.  A portion of my reported income is ‘Performance Related Pay’ (PRP), but this is not guaranteed and any PRP awarded to me is based on achieving and exceeding major strategic goals and targets for the university.

I would also like to clarify that I may choose to not accept a PRP award. I now realize I did this to my own detriment in 2014, because I did not foresee the way it would lead to this false and misleading interpretation one year later.

Finally, in light of my experience, I would like to finish by highlighting what I see as the consequences of this type of reporting. I have learnt to my cost that you can be pilloried for a salary increase attributed to you that you haven’t actually received. Therefore, I very much doubt in future that many Vice-Chancellors will decide to offer any form of salary sacrifice, or refuse a benefit, if it triggers the type of poor analysis and misinterpretation by the Times Higher Education magazine and the ensuing media and personal abuse that I have been subjected to.

In my view this cannot be good for Higher Education, or an encouragement to individual Vice-Chancellors to do something they may personally feel is right to do for whatever reason in a particular year.

I am extremely proud of what Falmouth University has achieved in the past seven years under my stewardship. If nothing else, this experience has afforded me another opportunity to highlight Falmouth University’s ongoing success.

Yours sincerely

Professor Anne Carlisle

Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive

Falmouth University

01326 213770