GLOBAL: The price of leadership

Leading a university is a high-profile job but it appears that only in the US does the reward for that work break the US$1 million mark. Pay surveys from English-speaking nations indicate that US university leaders are much more highly paid than their peers in other countries, particularly in private, research-intensive institutions.

Vice-chancellors and presidents in Australia and the UK were the next highest-paid group. In the US, this year's Chronicle of Higher Education survey of university presidents' pay rates recorded one-off pay packets (including special bonuses and other one-off factors) as high as US$2.8 million. But regular remuneration was also high, with the salary packages of the eight best-paid leaders of private, research-intensive universities ranging from $1-1.7 million.

In the public sector, the highest "regular" pay packet last year was $1.3 million for the president of Ohio State University. But the Chronicle put median pay and benefits for the presidents of public institutions at the rather smaller $427,400.

Across the border in Canada, pay rates are more modest. Earlier this year, the Canwest News Service reported that the highest paid Canadian university leader earned nearly C$505,000 (US$399,000) with several others close behind.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Britain's vice-chancellors are also a long way behind their US peers. Figures published by the Times Higher Education Supplement for 2005-6 show that the 10 highest paid vice-chancellors earned between £225-300,000 (US$334,500-$447,300) per year, not counting pension plans and other benefits.

In Australia, a survey by The Australian's Higher Education Supplement last year found one university vice-chancellor was paid just over A$1 million (US$643,300) although this included accrued leave entitlements and other benefits.

The survey put the pay of most of the leaders of Australia's most research-intensive universities around the A$700,000 (US$450,000) mark. In some instances that figure included bonuses and accommodation, but for others such benefits could be added to the A$700,000 figure, carrying their true remuneration still higher.

And in New Zealand, the State Services Commission's annual listing of remuneration for tertiary education chief executives showed that last year a chief executive was paid more than NZ$500,000 (US$264,000), with two others paid about NZ$460,000.