President of City University earns twice as much as Islington NHS chiefs

An Islington Now analysis of accounts has revealed that Professor Sir Paul Curran is one of the highest paid university heads in the UK.

The Rhind Building at City, University of London. Professor Sir Paul Curran, President of the Islington-based University, earned £344,000 last year. Photo © Stephen McKay (cc-by-sa/2.0)

The head of City, University of London earns more than twice the salary of Islington’s council and health chiefs, Islington Now can exclusively reveal.

An analysis of the University’s audited accounts has allowed Islington Now to outline for the first time the enormous pay packet of President Professor Sir Paul Curran over those in comparable senior leadership roles across the public sector in Islington.

Curran, who took up the post in August 2010, earned a total of £334,000 in the last financial year, an amount equivalent to nearly half of the £741,000 made by the university in investment income over the same period.

A pay ratio of 18:1

His salary works out at 5.2 times the median salary for City academic staff and seven times the median salary for all staff within City. There is a ratio of nearly 18:1 between the pay of Curran and the lowest pay grade of workers at City, which is currently at £18,777 a year.

Curran’s earnings also dwarf the pay of Islington Council’s chief executive, Lesley Seary, who receives £160,000 a year, as well as Angela McNab, the chief executive of the Camden and Islington NHS Trust, who receives a salary of £155,000 a year.

Curran was awarded a 5 per cent salary increase in 2016 by an internal remuneration committee which he attends. The President is not present when his remuneration is considered or set.

The Corporate Governance Committee at City justified the increase, arguing that “[2017] marked the culmination of 5 years’ work, which had seen City more than double the proportion of its academic staff producing world-leading and internationally-excellent research.

“The exceptional achievement of the President over several years was reflected in the decision taken by the Remuneration Committee in June 2016 to award the President an increase.”

Behind in the league tables

Despite City joining the University of London (UoL) in September 2016, it still languishes behind the most prestigious UoL institutions on the world stage – Times Higher Education have ranked it between 350th and 400th in the world in 2018.

Goldsmiths, Royal Holloway, Queen Mary University of London and the London School of Economics all fare better in the tables despite paying their heads a smaller salary than at City.

The leaders’ pay ranges from £285,000 a year at Queen Mary, University of London, which is ranked 121st in the world, to £313,000 at Royal Holloway, which is ranked 197th. Even London School of Economics, which is ranked 25th in the world, pays its head less than City’s, at £309,000 a year.

Barnabas Csukas, a 23-year-old library worker at City, commented: “To be honest, I have no idea what the President does. It seems like a huge amount of money, and I can’t see him doing anything worth that.”

“With pensions being axed, it doesn’t seem particularly fair.”

Holly Bancroft, a graduate student at City, called the situation “outrageous”, adding that “the President needs greater justification for his pay given there are heads of better institutions across London who don’t earn nearly as much”.

In a statement, Rob Woodward, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of City, University of London’s Council, said: “City, University of London is a large, complex and very ambitious academic institution which is undergoing significant change to achieve its vision to be a leading international University. Its leadership requires an exceptionally talented President with a rare combination of skills; an established academic with an international research profile who has a significant track-record of successful leadership within the sector.

“Professor Sir Paul Curran has these attributes and we are delighted to have him as our President. I am confident that his remuneration, which is determined by our Remuneration Committee drawn from independent members of Council, is appropriate for a significant academic institution based in the City of London, especially when compared to universities of a similar size, profile and ambition.”