City university leaders were handed pay packets worth just over £223,000 on average last year, according to new analysis by the YEP.
Sir Alan Langlands, vice-chancellor at the University of Leeds, was the highest paid, taking home a basic salary of £281,000 last year, compared to £278,000 the previous year.
The pay for 2016/17 rises to £294,000 when pension contributions are included, compared to £287,000 in 2015/16.
The lowest paid was Professor Margaret A House at Leeds Trinity University, however she still earned a basic salary of £166,815 in 2016/17.
The University and College Union (UCU) said it recognised it was a “big job”, but, with some salaries in the city almost doubling that of the Prime Minister, who earns just over £150,000 a year, it questioned whether it was more difficult than running the country.
The analysis comes amid growing concern over spiralling salary hikes.
It concludes that once employer pension contributions are included, the average pay package for Leeds university bosses was just under £250,000.
It also shows that average basic salary has risen by 3.85 per cent since 2015/16.
UCU regional official Julie Kelley said the salaries did not include “extra perks” received by some, including houses, cars, cleaners and even chauffeurs.
She said: “Our view is generally that the salaries for vice-chancellors are unbelievably high. Does that represent good value for money in an organisation?
“When you look at what an average member of staff is being paid in comparison, are we saying a vice-chancellor’s role is much more difficult than anybody else’s?
“One of the other issues related to high salaries is that in terms of the governance of institutions, the vice-chancellors are sitting on the remuneration committees that determine the salaries they are awarded. This should not be allowed .”
The figures are based on an analysis of the 2016/17 financial accounts of the city’s three universities, excluding the new Leeds Arts University, which was awarded university status last summer, and the University of Law Leeds campus.
Ms Kelley added: “I don’t think we would be against a leader having a higher salary; it just seems to be exorbitant.”
'Our vice-chancellor has only had one pay rise'
Universities in the city have defended the salaries of their vice-chancellors.
The University of Leeds set out its list of accolades achieved since Sir Alan Langlands took up post in 2013, during which time he has only received one salary increase in line with inflation.
A spokesperson said: “Since taking up the post in 2013 – during which time the university has been awarded University of the Year, entered the top 10 of UK universities for the first time, achieved a gold award in the Teaching Excellence Framework and secured significant funding for life-changing research – Sir Alan Langlands has received only one salary increase, which was the same as the national figure of 1.1 per cent paid to all staff that year.
“Leeds remains one of the UK’s biggest and most popular universities, and Sir Alan Langlands’ leadership has been critical in driving the University’s £1.3bn contribution to the economy, its global reputation and its valuable role in the city’s and the region’s success.”
David Lowen, chair of the board of governors at Leeds Beckett, stressed the university was one of the largest institutions in the country and Professor Peter Slee’s only rise was in line with inflation.
Leeds Trinity said Professor Margaret A House’s wage remained significantly below the national average and she had opted out of the pension scheme.
Salaries laid bare in the region
Across Yorkshire, university bosses’ salaries were worth just over £253,000 on average last year.
Sir Keith Burnett, the outgoing vice-chancellor at the University of Sheffield was the region’s highest paid, taking home a salary of £426,589 last year, including a £33,999 bonus, compared to £422,706 the previous year.
Once employer pension contributions are included, the average pay was just under £282,000. The average basic salary has risen by 2.59 per cent, compared with 2015/16.
The average figures exclude the University of Hull, due to the retirement of the vice-chancellor Professor Calie Pistorius.