THE HEAD of a Hampshire university has been criticised for a pay rise which "beggars belief".

Southampton University's financial statements show Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Christopher Snowden was paid £433,000 from 2016-2017 - making him one of the highest paid university leaders in the country.

But critics say he is "living in an alternative reality", with the news coming just weeks after the university advertised for an executive chauffeur while planning to axe up to 75 academic jobs.

General secretary of the University and College Union Sally Hunt said: "This latest revelation demonstrates just how out of touch university vice chancellors can be.

"Professor Snowden was already one of the best-paid vice chancellors in the UK, on a salary that had been publicly questioned by the universities minister.

"To accept this kind of pay rise while saying he must axe 75 academic jobs because money is tight beggars belief, as does the fact that he has also recently advertised for an executive chauffeur.

"It is almost as if vice chancellors are engaged in some offensive game to see who can shock the most".

A union spokesperson added that the new pay grade represents a 30 per cent increase in just two years - after previous vice chancellor Prof Nutbeam was paid £322,000.

But just this morning Southampton University lecturers were sent an email justifying the pay rise.

It said he is "not entitled to or paid a bonus, and the university makes no contributions to his pension.

"In 2016-17 he was awarded a salary increment of 1.1 per cent in line with the higher education national pay award.

"This was the only increase in his remuneration since his appointment, and he has declined a similar increment for 2017-18".

A university spokesperson added: "The Vice-Chancellor’s salary was set and is regularly reviewed and agreed by the University’s independently-chaired Remuneration Committee, which reports to the University Council".

They added: "Sir Christopher brings breadth and depth of experience that is critical to Southampton's long-term success. World-class capable leaders are needed to ensure that the UK’s universities become one of the stars in the UK’s post-Brexit export strategy. His remuneration reflects his experience.”