A HAMPSHIRE University handed its former vice-chancellor a £250,000 golden goodbye for retiring a year earlier than planned, it’s been revealed.

According to the University of Southampton’s latest financial statements, Professor Don Nutbeam received £252,000 as ‘compensation for loss of office’ plus a £43,000 ‘performance-related bonus’ before stepping down at the end of September 2015.

The six-figure payout has been labelled as “embarrassing” to the university sector by the University and College Union (UCU).

UCU regional director Moray McAuley said: “Staff, students and their parents will understandably be shocked that the University of Southampton decided to pay its vice-chancellor £250,000 to stop working.

“Staff are constantly being told there is no money for pay increases and have seen their pay collapse by 15 per cent in real terms in recent years, while shady remuneration committees determine pay at the top.

“The largesse of some of those running our universities has got so bad that even government ministers have instructed them to reign it in.

“It appears the calls for self-restraint have fallen on deaf ears as the embarrassing pay and perks of those at the top continues to embarrass the university sector and shock onlookers.”

The university’s financial statements also reveal that it paid a total of £697,000, including pensions, to change chancellors in 2015/16.

Professor Nutbeam’s successor Sir Christopher Snowden received £352,000 in salary and pensions contributions.

According to a Times Higher Education survey, the average cost of paying the salary and benefits of a Russell Group vice-chancellor increased by 5.9 per cent to £342,200 in the 2015/16.

The figures have been slammed by Sally Hunt, UCU’s general secretary, who said: “Taking inflation-busting pay rises at such a tumultuous time for UK higher education does not show good leadership.

“These institutions have the worst records for putting staff on insecure casual contracts so there is an even greater sense of injustice that there is one rule for those at the top and one for everyone else.”

“Now is the time for vice-chancellors to invest in staff but instead they plead poverty on staff pay, and refuse to address the gender pay gap and endemic job insecurity within their institutions.”

Mrs Hunt said that more transparency is needed to explain how these “bumper pay deals” are agreed.

Southampton University also revealed it could hike up its annual fees for undergraduate tuition, piling more misery on cash-strapped UK and EU students.

Fees are currently set at £9,000 per annum, but the university could bump them up to £9,250 – the first time in five years they would have been increased.

The university’s spokesman said: “The proposal to allow universities to raise fees hasn’t completed the relevant parliamentary processes.

“However, should it be approved, the university is likely to raise fees to £9,250.

“Any potential changes to our tuition fees will have to be approved by the full University Council.”

A spokesman for the university, which belongs to The Russell Group, said: “In July 2014, our previous vice-chancellor, Professor Don Nutbeam, informed the university of his intention to retire at the end of his contract in September 2016 or before, if the institution found a suitable replacement.

“The university conducted a thorough recruitment process and was able to secure the services of Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, someone with a significant profile and experience who was available more quickly than planned or anticipated.

“This meant that Professor Nutbeam was then able to leave and the university paid him until the end of his contract.”

After leaving Southampton, Professor Nutbeam, who holds dual British and Australian citizenship - returned to Sydney to become professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney and a senior advisor at the Sax Institute.