Bosses at Scotland’s top ranking universities have been branded ‘out of touch’ for their high salaries after staff walked out in action over pay and conditions

University of Edinburgh head Peter Mathieson took home a wage packet of £342,000 during the last academic year.

Lecturers represented by the University and College Union (UCU) went on strike for eight days between November and December, in protest at pensions and wages.

And a spokesman for the UCU branded the hefty salaries pocketed by university bosses as ‘out of touch’ and ‘an embarrassment to the sector’, while it emerged this week that student loan debts have tripled.

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General secretary of the UCU, Jo Grady, said: “The largesse of vice-chancellors’ pay and perks have been a continued source of embarrassment for the university sector and exposed how out of touch those at the top of our institutions really are.”

“At a time when staff pay has been held down, insecure contracts have become more common, pensions have been attacked and nothing done to address inequalities vice-chancellors continued to accept inflation-busting pay deals, max out expense accounts and enjoy rent-free accommodation.”

She added: “Staff have had enough and that is why they walked out on strike before Christmas, and are prepared to do so again if vice-chancellors continue to deny them fair pay and decent conditions.”

Anton Muscatelli, principal of the University of Glasgow, earned the second highest in Scotland last year at £298,000 - a relatively modest £10,000 pay rise.

Despite being head of the country’s most prestigious institution, the principal of St Andrews, Sally Mapstone, earned less than her peers, taking home £260,000 last year - a pay rise of £11,000 from the £249,000 she earned between 2017 and 2018.

While other salaries soared, principal of the University of Aberdeen George Boyne took a pay cut, data uncovered by student publication The Tab revealed.

His salary last year was £250,000 - a £27,000 pay cut from his previous wage of £277,000 in 2018.

Only 15 of the UK’s top 42 highest paid vice chancellors and principals accepted wage cuts last year.

Public body the Scottish Funding Council refused to be drawn on the salaries but said universities ‘make the best use of the resources available to them’.

However, the six-figure salaries were condemned by the Scottish branch of the National Union of Students (NUS), which described 'inflation-busting salaries' as 'extravagance'.

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President of NUS Scotland, Liam McCabe, said: “It beggars’ belief that some university principals continue to enjoy inflation busting salaries, benefits and bonuses while the public funding of our institutions continues to decline.

“Our universities are publicly funded charities, and should ensure transparency is a core principle of all decision making – giving the students and staff who make up our universities an insight into how that money is being spent.”

He added: “We cannot allow the extravagance of the few distract from the need from proper investment in our students.

"That means a fully funded sector, with the best educators, a wide variety of courses and classes, support services that are up to scratch, and financial support that meets the cost of living.”