SA university heads take a pay-cut – this is how much they earn

Following the 2015 FeesMustFall protests, vice chancellor salaries at South African universities came under scrutiny, with student protesters calling the amounts earned “obscene” – especially considering the plight of poor students.

As the FeesMustFall protest sequel erupts at university campuses in 2016, VC salaries are again coming under the spotlight – showing some improvement, but staying more or less the same.

According the university annual reports for the 2015 financial year, it is evident that many vice chancellors at South Africa’s top universities have taken a pay cut – or at least avoided a significant increase – amid the fees controversy.

Most notably, University of Cape Town VC, Dr Max Price, took a 10% cut in his 2015 salary, while smaller cuts were seen at the University of Johannesburg and Wits.

On the other side of the coin, Stellenbosch University’s new VC, Prof Willem de Villiers, earned significantly more than what was paid in 2014.

Despite the changes in pay, student protesters maintain that pay for Vice Chancellors is still simply too high, saying that it’s wrong that people who are effectively public servants are paid more than the country’s top public servant – the president.

For 2015, president Jacob Zuma’s salary was just under R2.9 million.

This is how VCs were paid in 2015. All data was sourced from the respective universities’ annual reports for 2015, linked in each name.

VC / Principal University 2014 salary 2015 salary Change
Prof MS Makhanya Unisa R4.2 million R4.2 million 0.0%
Prof IL Rensburg University of Johannesburg R3.9 million R3.7 million -5.1%
Prof A Habib University of Witwatersrand R3.4 million R3.3 million -2.9%
Prof HR Botman (2014) / Prof W de Villiers (2015) Stellenbosch University R2.3 million R2.9 million +26.1%
Dr M R Price University of Cape Town R2.9 million R2.6 million -10.3%
Dr S Mabizela Rhodes University R2.4 million R2.5 million +4.1%
Prof MW Makgoba University of KwaZulu Natal R3.8 million Not stated N/A
Prof ND Kgwadi North-West University R2.8 million Not stated N/A
Prof Cheryl de la Rey University of Pretoria Not stated Not stated N/A

Salary information for Prof Cheryl de la Rey, vice chancellor of the University of Pretoria could not be sourced, as no annual report for the university has been published. The VC’s salary was reported to be R2.2 million in 2012.

Additionally, salary information for VC of North-West University was glaringly absent from its annual report. The University of KwaZulu Natal has not published a 2015 annual report on its site.

Several universities around the country suspended activities after Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande on Monday announced the universities could increase fees up to a maximum of 8%.

Students are demanding free education at tertiary level, and have taken to the streets and campuses in protest.

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“We are going to beat you up”: Fee protesters threaten students over WhatsApp

Students want instant gratification – CEO

Students arrested in Wits protest

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SA university heads take a pay-cut – this is how much they earn