What music college chiefs are being paid

What music college chiefs are being paid


norman lebrecht

May 25, 2016

The Times Higher Educational Supplement, looking at rewards for academic fat cats, has provided a search engine for salaries at most UK institutions of higher education.

So here’s the 2015 pay scale we’ve derived for running a music college or conservatoire in the UK:


royal academy of music

1 Royal Academy of Music – Jonathan Freeman-Attwood – £286,613

2 Royal College of Music – Colin Lawson –                              £217,431

3 Trinity Laban – Anthony Bowne –                                          £186,211

4 Guildhall School of Music and Drama – Barry Ife –            £171,000

5 Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – Jeffrey Sharkey –         £159,000

6 Royal Northern College of Music – Linda Merrick –         £146,000

7 Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts – Mark Featherstone-Witty – £136,884

There are some glaring anomalies here. The two London-based royal institutions appear to enjoy inflated wages. Impossible to justify paying the Royal Academy chief twice as much as the head of the Royal Northern (or is it cos she’s non-male?). Why are the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and Birmingham Conservatoire unlisted?

On a national scale, the highest paid university chiefs are those at Durham, Middlesex and Salford, hardly the greatest centres of excellence.

Read the full THES article here.



  • Hilary says:

    Living costs in London are greater than those of Manchester might explain that apparent anomaly.

    • Alexander says:

      Living costs in London are not 100% greater than living costs in Manchester. It is also quite possible to live in London on £146,000 p.a.

      • jaxon says:

        Sure, but the schools can’t just pay a salary that’s “enough to live on.” It has to be competitive relative to any other job they might pursue. And at the level of the President/CEO/whatever of a world-famous education institution, most of the people they want to hire could easily get other jobs that would pay more, in the public or private sector.

        Not that I think these salaries are necessarily appropriate, but I am not remotely surprised and I don’t see any “disparity” here.

        • Alexander says:

          That is, of course, true. My comment was responding to the idea that cost of living explained why the principals of two of the UK’s finest conservatoires earn such vastly different salaries. The RAM principal could easily afford to live in London on a salary of £146,000, so his additional £140,000 p.a. is obviously not simply intended to allow him to pay off his mortgage. The real reason must be the perceived value which Professor Freeman-Attwood represents to the institution. So the question is, is Jonathan Freeman-Attwood twice as valuable to the RAM as Linda Merrick is to the RNCM?

          • Anon says:

            Alexander, it’s not the “cost of living” per se; it’s the cost of living *for a person of that standing*. Take the sort of property the family of a highly successful person might live in in Manchester, and move that to somewhere within easy travelling of Marylebone. If it’s in Marylebone then you’ve just added £1m or more to the cost, so figure the mortgage implications.

            That’s not all there is to it of course, and there’s little contextual data here. Perhaps some of the salary reflects performance enhanced pay increases for delivering on fundraising targets or other incoming revenue aims, perhaps for a significant redevelopment in some area, perhaps for longevity of service.
            Do we also take into account the salaries and responsibilities of the next layer of senior staffing? Maybe there are many people in Manchester earning around the £100k mark to support the chief, but in London the next rung are all on £80k and the difference goes to the chief’s pocket. Who knows? I also imagine the RAM sees itself as the UK’s premier Conservatoire, and will therefore pay accordingly.

            Or in other words, it’s hard to really know what these figures say without a lot more data.

    • Jascha Heifetz says:

      It is my understanding that the principal of the Royal Academy of Music gets a rent free apartment on the Marylebone campus, and is required to live there under the terms of his contract, according to their public annual financial statements

      • Hilary says:

        That detail adds a significant dimension.
        Altogether, I’m left dismayed by this whole thing, but it’s in all reaches of society.

    • Una says:

      Not that much, Hilary.

  • Malcolm James says:

    The RWCMD is part of the University of South Wales and the Birmingham Conservatoire is part of Birmingham City University. This might explain their omission.

    • Max Grimm says:

      In the case of the Birmingham Conservatoire, the fact that the post of principal passed from David Saint to Julian Lloyd Webber not quite halfway through 2015 might also be a contributing factor.
      According to a report by or for the National Assembly of Wales, £144.000 went to the RWCMD’s Principal Mrs. Boulding in 2013, which is considerably lower than the salary of the university’s Vice-Chancellor, who £216.672 in the same year (@NL, the V-C is Mrs Julie Lydon).

  • Max Grimm says:

    “Impossible to justify paying the Royal Academy chief twice as much as the head of the Royal Northern (or is it cos she’s non-male?)”

    It’s doubtful that gender has anything to do with that particular salary difference.
    Only a quick walk from Mrs. Merrick and the RNCM is Mrs. Rothwell of the UoM, who at £296.000 is also paid twice as much Mrs. Merrick.

  • Jacky Tarleton says:

    Your final sentence – Durham University, with its constituent colleges, is most definitely a centre of excellence.

    • dadadrummer says:

      Further to Norman and Jacky’s comment – one must remember that pay awards are often linked to the size of of institution rather than ‘prestige’. Durham, Salford and Middlesex are all sizeable (and reputable!) institutions – each with around 20k students. That said any salary in HE over £100k seems pretty grotesque given students are now graduating with upwards of £50k debt and that’s not factoring in interest…..

  • dadadrummer says:

    A topical post given university/conservatoire lecturers are striking today. What surprises most is the pay award given to the Head of the RAM which far exceeds a number of (some already overpaid) university vice chancellors who arguably manage a far larger portfolio (more students, larger income/expenditure)…. with under c.1k students a salary of £286k seems wholly out of proportion… or put another way equates to 6 times my salary as a Lecturer in Music.

  • Sponger Ringer says:

    Is no one going to mention the fact that since Mr Freeman-Atwood has been in charge two employees have embezzled over £600,000 from the Royal Academy of Music? It seems half of this was paid back by Mrs Janet Whitehouse but it seems outrageous that his salary would be this much when the cost of degrees are at a record high.

  • Mitch Wilson says:

    Hilary? Hilary Birch (Mrs Colin Lawson, Director of the Royal College in London) or Hilary Boulding from the Royal Welsh College in Cardiff?

  • Preacher says:

    You claim that it is “impossible to justify paying the Royal Academy chief twice as much as the head of the Royal Northern”.
    When you look at the standard of musicians from these two institutions, the justification becomes transparently clear. The RAM produces musicians of a significantly higher standard.
    You even allude to the notion that chiefs at “centres of excellence” warrant higher pay by suggesting, in a surprised manner, that the high salaries of chiefs at Salford and Middlesex are undeserved for this exact reason!

    • Sponger Ringer says:

      There’s a £110,000 difference between the RAM and Guildhall. What’s the justification?