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The Stairway to the Top: The Remuneration of Academic Executives

By Kenneth W Clements and Izan H Y Izan


Australian universities have in recent times been undergoing a substantial transformation in the way in which they are managed. They have moved away from the (British-based) traditional collegiate model to one in which professional managers play a centre-stage role. This paper investigates an important element of the managerialism at Australian universities, the market for what we call “academic executives” (AEs). We analyse the remuneration of the top AEs at Australian universities over the past six years and show that institutional size is a dominant driving factor of remuneration, as has been found with compensation of CEOs in the private sector. We also find the pay-size elasticity to be about 0.25 and is the same for both the university and private sectors; and remarkably, this value has also been found in previous studies on executive remuneration for the US and the UK. The remuneration schedule for the university sector is about half as steep as that for the private sector, suggesting that it is a much harder climb to the top of the corporate ladder. We analyse the structure of remuneration among AEs and the Group of Eight universities are found to have a pay parity structure that is closest to that for the private sector.

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