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Former Principal paid 15 times more than average employee for 2017-18 financial year

Professor Sir Ian Diamond’s payment package included £289,000 for a 12-month period of “gardening leave"

By: Harry Keightley

Sir Ian Diamond speaks at the government's Covid press briefing - Photograph: screengrab

The University of Aberdeen’s former principal was paid 15 times more than the average wage of its employees during the 2017-18 period.

In total, Professor Sir Ian Diamond was paid £601,000 including a salary of £282,000, pension contributions of £30,000, and contractual notice period payment and related expenses amounting to £289,000 to cover his ‘gardening leave’ for the 2018-19 period.

In a report published today, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) conclude that Professor Sir Ian Diamond received his full Principal’s salary whilst “having significantly fewer duties and responsibilities than those constituting the full role of Principal” in 2017-18.

It also states that during the 2018-19 financial year “the University incurred the cost of two Principals” and questioned whether this was “value for money”.

The SFC has ordered the University to pay back £119,000 and to undertake “an externally facilitated review of its governance procedures and culture.”

The University had claimed that Professor Diamond was available “to provide support to the University if required” during his period of gardening leave.

However, the SFC report states: “We are unaware of any advice being sought from the former Principal following his move to gardening leave on 1 August 2018.”

The report states that the former principal proposed the initial terms of his retirement which were negotiated with the Remuneration Committee. The Principal’s right to a 12-month contractual payment for ‘gardening leave’ arose as a result of these negotiations.

The SFC also concludes that an additional payment of £60,000 which was made to a third-party for “outplacement support” to Diamond in October 2017 should have been included in the 2017-18 accounts. Outplacement support is described in the report as professional advice or assistance designed to help an employee find a new job. Minutes of the Remuneration Committee meeting of 29 July 2017 state that the University Lawyer was consulted in relation to the provision of “outplacement support”.

The SFC report states they “saw no documentation to evidence that the University Lawyer was consulted or provided advice on the matter” or that the cost of the provision of such support had been considered prior to securing the services.

The University has not clarified why outplacement support was provided to somebody they had stated was retiring nor why it was undisclosed in the accounts for the 2017-18 financial year.

In an email issued to students this morning, the Interim University secretary said: “The University has cooperated fully with this review, welcomes the publication of the report, accepts its main findings and has already repaid the £119,000 to the Scottish Funding Council."

The University and College Union Scotland Official, Mary Senior, said in a statement: "Universities have a duty to use the public money they receive properly. It's galling for staff, at a time they are being forced to take strike action for fair pay, to see university principals receiving unwarranted and unjustifiable payoffs. The funding council has shown that what happened at Aberdeen was entirely unacceptable. This decision to force the university to review its procedures and pay money back should act as a warning shot for other universities and principals."

SFC acknowledge in their report the co-operation they have received from the University in the conduct of their review.


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