The public are not interested about vice-Chancellor pay and the row will “blow over”, a £250,000-a-year university head has claimed.
Professor Nick Petford, vice-chancellor of the University of Northampton, said there is a “danger” in universities getting drawn into discussions about the issue, as it distracts people from their “great successes”.
He added that only politicians and journalists are interested in the issues of swelling vice-Chancellor pay packets, rather than the public.
In an interview with Times Higher Education magazine, he said: “The danger for universities [of getting] embroiled in trying to defend and support and argue with journalists and politicians who are driving this, not the general public, is that it will detract from the great successes that UK universities actually are and the opportunities and the empowerment they provide for communities and the economy.”
Prof Petford said that it was “absolutely not a crisis” but rather an “opportunity” to look at governance.
Northampton University's most recent annual accounts show that he received a total of £251,000 last year, an increase from his £245,000 the year before.
His comments follow widespread criticism of vice-Chancellor pay packets, including from Jo Johnson, the universities minister, who has spoken out against the "upwards rachet" of salaries.
He said that any member of a university’s senior leadership team with salaries over £150,000 will have to justify their salary to the new regulator, the Office for Students (OFS), or face a fine.
This week Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the OFS, told MPs there is a "sense that some senior salaries have got out of kilter” adding that there is a “legitimate public concern about the levels of some of the salaries”.
Prof Petford is not the first vice-Chancellor has taken aim at politicians over the growing pay row.
Earlier this year, Oxford University’s vice-Chancellor criticised "mendacious" politicians for accusing institutions of using rising fees to subsidise pay.
She also accused politicians of damaging the UK university sector by making "spurious" links between the increase in fees and the rise in vice chancellor pay - which has gone up every year of the last five.
The Oxford University vice chancellor said: "I think it's completely mendacious by politicians to suggest that vice-chancellors have used the £9,000 fee to enhance their own salaries. We know that the £9,000 fees were a substitute for the withdrawal of government funding."
She went on to suggest that vice-Chancellors were modestly paid compared to bankers and footballers.