UNIVERSITY bosses were accused by a union of hypocrisy yesterday as North-East staff prepared to walk out today (Thursday, January 23) in a national pay dispute.

Union leaders claimed vice-chancellors were being given disproportionate pay rises while staff were being offered one per cent.

The University and College Union (UCU) issued a statement claiming that Teesside University vice-chancellor Professor Graham Henderson topped the pay increases in the region with a rise of 15.9 per cent this year from £233,000 to £270,000.

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However, the claim was refuted by the university, which said Prof Henderson’s 2013 salary was actually £221,000 - a two per cent rise on the previous year, with the figure quoted by the union including two incentive payments, one of which was backdated from a previous financial year.

Elsewhere in the region, the UCU said Durham vice-chancellor Prof Christopher Higgins received a 5.2 per cent rise from £232,000 to £244,000, while Prof David Fleming at York St John had an 11.5 per cent increase from £182,000 to £204,000.

However, according to the union’s analysis, Professor Christopher Brink, at Newcastle University, saw his salary increase by just 0.4 per cent from £223,000 to £224,000.

Professor Peter Fidler, at Sunderland University, was the only vice-chancellor in the region to see his pay fall year-on-year, although he still earned £198,000.

UCU members will walk out today (Thursday) from 11am to 1pm. Further two-hour strikes will take place on Tuesday, January 28 and Monday, February 10.

The industrial action comes after the union refused a one per cent pay rise, which it claimed would leave staff with a real-terms 13 per cent pay cut since 2009.

UCU regional official, Iain Owens, said: “It is the utterly arbitrary nature of the (vice-chancellor) rises that make so little sense.

“What have any of them done that means they can enjoy large rises while staff are told to swallow another real-terms pay cut?

“The hypocrisy is quite amazing.”

A spokesman for Teesside University said: “Prof Henderson’s salary is not set by the university management but is decided by the university’s board of governors and is reflective of his leadership role in higher education and his impact on the continued success of the university and its contribution to the wider economy.”

Robert Gillespie, chairman of Durham University Council, said compensation levels for senior employees were determined by the remuneration committee of the university council.

He added: “Under the present vice-chancellor's leadership, Durham has achieved UK top-five and a world top-100 university status, membership of the Russell Group of universities and has shown greatly improved performance in research and education.”