The massive salaries earned by university executives in South Africa

The executives in charge of South African universities are rewarded with very large pay cheques, the Sunday Times reports.

Many local university vice-chancellors received salaries north of R4 million for 2017, including executives from the University of Stellenbosch, University of the Witwatersrand, and University of Venda.

A large percentage of vice-chancellors are also rewarded with perks and bonuses in addition to their salaries, resulting in large payouts.

In the final year of his 12-year tenure, former University of Johannesburg vice-chancellor Ihron Rensburg received a base salary of R3.9 million and an extra R13.7 million in retention incentives accumulated over 10 years.

This meant that Rensburg received R17.6 million in his final year occupying the post of vice-chancellor.

UJ paid Rensburg’s successor R5 million in his role as deputy vice-chancellor last year, which included a bonus of almost R700,000 and a R1.4-million retention incentive.

Salary regulation

According to the report, the salaries and bonuses paid to university executives have sparked calls for a probe by the department of higher education.

Former Durban University of Technology chairperson Jairam Reddy said the government should ask university councils to regulate the salaries of vice-chancellors.

“If they fail to bring about regulation themselves, then the government may have to intervene because bridging the inequality gap in this country overrides everything else,” Reddy told the Sunday Times.

He added that there can be no justification for bonuses and incentives, as it is not possible to award these same perks to all university employees.

A vice-chancellor who chose to remain anonymous told the Sunday Times that they acknowledge some university executives received exorbitant salaries and bonuses.

Universities SA CEO Ahmed Bawa noted that the turnover of university vice-chancellors in South Africa was very high, and this should be accounted for when councils set salaries for executives.

The department of higher education said it has no mechanism to regulate the pay of vice-chancellors at public universities, adding that it would examine the information in the 2017 annual reports and investigate salary payments which appear to be excessive.

This is not the only potential issue plaguing local universities, as a recent report found that the National Skills Fund (NSF) is being used largely to fund students pursuing humanities degrees instead of enabling much-needed artisans.

This has resulted in South African universities churning out a large number of students with “soft degrees”, saturating the market while exacerbating the shortage of technical graduates in the country.

Now read: South African blockchain startup launches free online university

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The massive salaries earned by university executives in South Africa