Magazine article Times Higher Education

High-Earner Salaries May Be Disclosed

Magazine article Times Higher Education

High-Earner Salaries May Be Disclosed

Article excerpt

ICO rules that there is 'public interest in transparency and openness'. Jack Grove reports

Salaries of high-earning professors and senior managers may soon be made public after a landmark ruling said that a university must publish details of staff who earn more than £100,000 a year.

In a decision that may herald a new era of transparency in top university pay, the Information Commissioner's Office said that King's College London should publish the job title, department and salary band of each of its 127 staff who earn £100,000 or more a year.

It follows a complaint to the regulator, which adjudicates on data protection, privacy and freedom of information matters, after King's refused to provide the information on its highly paid staff following a Freedom of Information request.

The university claimed disclosure would breach its staff's right to privacy and prejudice its commercial interests as rival institutions could see what it paid certain staff and lure them away with better deals.

King's also asserted that it was not subject to the same rules on pay disclosure as public bodies because much of its income comes from non-public sources and it competes for staff internationally with non-public institutions.

However, its argument was rejected by the ICO, which noted that King's routinely disclosed salaries for lower-paid staff in its job adverts, while no evidence was produced to show that staff would be upset by disclosure of their pay.

Because King's "is partially reliant upon public funding [the Information Commissioner] believes there should be an expectation by its staff that some information relating to salaries, particularly for senior staff earning in excess of £100,000, should be made public", the ruling said.

It went on to state that the "individuals' right to privacy is outweighed by the legitimate public interest in transparency and openness", adding that it is "appropriate" for senior staff's pay to be disclosed.

Appeal to commercial interests

A King's spokeswoman said that the university is appealing the decision, adding that "such disclosure would be detrimental to those staff affected and it would be prejudicial to the college's legitimate commercial interests".

A three-day hearing is due to take place in central London from 21 July.

If the decision is upheld, it could lead to other universities having to reveal how much they pay senior managers or top professors, many of whom were recruited on high salaries in time for this year's research excellence framework. …

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