The salaries of South Africa’s university vice-chancellors are being investigated – here’s how much they earn

Parliament’s portfolio committee on Higher Education, Science and Technology has called for an investigation into the salaries paid to senior executives at South African universities.

In a meeting on Thursday (17 October), the portfolio committee said that the salaries paid to these executives are not proportional to the performance of their institutions in connection with research outputs, throughput rates, and other important factors.

“The committee will request the minister of Higher Education, Science and Technology to commission an inquiry into the remuneration of universities’ vice-chancellors and other senior executive managers and to report to parliament,” said committee chairperson Philly Mapulane.

“Universities are public institutions which must be accountable to the people of South Africa, through their elected representatives, about the prudent management of their finances.

“This question of remuneration of senior executive managers, if left unattended, may become a runaway train and therefore we are calling for action to be taken to regulate it,” he said.


A university’s vice-chancellor is akin to a company CEO. He or she is accountable for the leadership of the university as a whole, while also setting out a university’s strategic goals, and ensuring their implementation.

However, the salaries paid to these universities have come under the spotlight in the past, notably as students have protested against the rising cost of tertiary education in the country.

Below BusinessTech looked at the latest available remuneration data fror the heads of South Africa’s top universities.

Data was taken from the latest available annual financial report of each institution (2018 and in some cases 2017), and the total pay presented includes basic salaries as well as employment benefits (medical aid, provident fund, UIF, SDL), bonuses and other allowances.

VC / Principal University Pay
Professor Tshilidzi Marwala University of Johannesburg R4 907 529
Professor Wim de Villiers Stellenbosch University R4 840 000
Professor Adam Habib University of Witwatersrand R4 484 000
Dr A S van Jaarsveld University of KwaZulu Natal R3 792 000*
Professor Mandla Makhanya University of South Africa (Unisa) R3 788 000*
Dr Max Price
Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng
University of Cape Town
University of Cape Town
R3 672 852**
R3 224 224**
Professor Dan Kgwadi North-West University R3 532 000*
Dr Sizwe Mabizela Rhodes University R2 991 000

*Indicates data is from 2017 annual report. 

** UCT had two vice-chancellors in 2018 with each working six months. While Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng was only appointed for the last six months of the year, her full annual salary was reflected for comparison purposes. 

Read: Constitutional Court approves Stellenbosch University’s English language policy

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The salaries of South Africa’s university vice-chancellors are being investigated – here’s how much they earn