AN INDEPENDENT inquiry into “excessive” university pay will be called for this week.

Former schools minister Lord Andrew Adonis will call for the inquiry when he speaks in the House of Lords on Friday after it was revealed vice chancellor of Southampton University Professor Sir Christopher Snowden is now one of the highest paid in the country, earning £433,000 this year.

It comes as uni bosses are set to slash 75 university staff jobs - while the Echo revealed the university is spending £100,000 a year on a disused tower block and advertising for a chauffeur for senior staff and dignitaries.

Lord Adonis said: “I have suggested that the Archbishop of Canterbury (paid £80k a year for one of the biggest jobs in the country!) should do it.

“He should start by looking at the scandal in Southampton, where the university has been lying about the vice-chancellor’s membership of the remuneration committee which sets his own salary. He should either halve his salary immediately or resign.”

Now students are running a petition calling for Sir Snowden’s pay to be cut instead of staff jobs - and have gathered more than 300 signatures in just 24 hours.

Organiser and politics student Ben Seifert, 20, said: “We have reached the threshold so can now call for an all student vote - that would be a campus wide referendum.

“There must be a halt to the proposed staff cuts until a full student consultation has taken place, with a transparent review of alternative savings completed, first identifying the savings which can be made from the Vice-Chancellor’s annual pay”.

They say his pay must now “revised” and added: “A student consultation is urgently required in order to assess the inevitable impact that the proposed staff cuts will have upon the quality of education.”

Calling the salary “corrosive” they said it does “not reflect leadership to either staff or students”.

University and College Union general secretary Sally Hunt said: “Southampton has spent £1.5m paying its vice-chancellor in the last three years, has been caught out trying to say the vice-chancellor was not involved in those decisions and is still refusing to give us the minutes of those meetings. The time has come for proper transparency and scrutiny of the murky world of pay and perks in universities.”

A Southampton University spokesperson said: "The University of Southampton has always maintained that our Vice-Chancellor was a member of the independently-chaired Senior Salaries Committee (which is also stated in our Financial Statements and on the University website). 

"At the start of the 2017-18 academic year, the University changed this independently-chaired Senior Salaries Committee to an independently-chaired Remuneration Committee as part of the continual improvement of its corporate governance and in accordance with updated guidelines recently published by HEFCE.

"Previously, the President and Vice Chancellor was a member of this Committee in order to contribute to discussions about pay for his own direct reports and executive team. The Vice Chancellor was not present at any point during meetings for discussions and voting on his own pay.

"Under new terms of reference for the University of Southampton’s Remuneration Committee the Vice-Chancellor is not a member of the committee – he attends only by invitation to participate in discussions relating to his direct reports and executive team - publicly available example here:

"As the Vice-Chancellor is only involved in discussing pay for his direct reports he receives a suitably shortened version of the meeting papers. Minutes, past and present, clearly show the point at which the Vice-Chancellor leaves the meeting prior to any agenda items considering their own pay. As the Vice-Chancellor is not a member of the committee, he has no voting rights on the Remuneration Committee."