STRATHCLYDE University has been criticised after its principal received a £17,000 increase to a remuneration package now worth £360,000 a year.

Sir Jim McDonald, who is the highest-paid principal in Scotland, also has outside corporate interests that top up his salary by at least £57,250.

Mary Senior, the Scotland official at the University and College Union, described the sums paid by Strathclyde as “galling” and called for “proper scrutiny of the pay and perks of those at the top”.

Staff at Strathclyde went on strike this year over a 1.1 per cent salary increase proposed on a UK-wide basis, which followed a one per cent rise implemented in the previous 12 months.

However, the publication of the university’s latest accounts, which cover 2015-2016, has re-opened the debate about the salary gap in the higher education sector.

McDonald has a decades-long connection with Strathclyde University which culminated in him becoming principal in 2009.

In 2014-15, his remuneration deal stood at £343,000, but the new accounts reveal this sum increased by nearly five per cent to £360,000 in the last financial year.

A university spokeswoman told the Sunday Herald that the principal received a “salary” increase of 1.1 per cent. However, this percentage rise can only account for a fraction of the £17,000.


Source: Strathclyde University accounts

The £360,000 figure reflects a “technical adjustment” made in the year-on-year accounts, but the spokeswoman did not elaborate on what this adjustment entailed.

According to the accounts, the remuneration package includes “benefits-in-kind”, although no further detail is offered.

The document added: “The principal has ceased to pay pension contributions into the Universities Superannuation Scheme and the university’s contributions to the pension scheme were paid to the principal as salary on an equivalent basis.”

In 2014, the Sunday Herald revealed the university had splashed out £1.2m on a Glasgow townhouse for use by McDonald and his colleagues.

At the time of purchase, the five-floor luxury abode in Park Circus boasted three offices, four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room, drawing room, “show” room, workshop, study and two sitting rooms.

Documents also revealed that the majestic property had a “broad sweeping staircase”, twin Corinthian pillars and a marble fireplace.

McDonald’s lucrative outside interests include a non-executive directorship of the Weir Group, an engineering company headquartered in Glasgow.

The company’s 2015 financial statement shows he received £57,250 for the work he carried out – the equivalent of £3,816 for each of the 15 board meetings he attended. He is also listed as a non-executive director of the UK Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult Board.

In 2014, a Catapult spokesperson said McDonald would be entitled to £12,000 a year for his duties.

Senior, whose union represents lecturers, hit out at the remuneration increase “at a time when principals say the money is not there to better reward staff.”

Vonnie Sandlan, the president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, said: “It’s incredibly disappointing to see another case of a principal’s remuneration package shooting up way above and beyond inflation.

“In a sector facing budget cuts, with staff being overworked and underpaid, and too many students struggling to get by on the support on offer.

“We cannot, and should not, accept a system at any university where senior staff are on a separate pay scale to other staff.”

A spokeswoman for the University of Strathclyde said: “The principal received a 1.1 per cent increase in salary, in line with every other member of staff at the university.”