Who is British Columbia’s highest-paid university executive?

UBC dominates the top ten, but it’s probably not who you think

The head of the University of British Columbia is earning one of the biggest paycheques in British Columbia’s public sector, according to new executive compensation figures recently released by the provincial government.

In the 2008/2009 academic year, UBC president and vice-chancellor Stephen Toope brought home $575,813, which includes nearly $200,000 in pension contributions and a housing allowance.

But topping the list for total post-secondary compensation in the province is former University of Northern British Columbia president and vice-chancellor Don Cozzetto. While he only received $47,958 in salary last year, he was also paid nearly $600,000 in severance, pension, relocation, tuition waivers, housing allowance, car allowance and vacation payout. That made him, by far, the best-paid public-sector employee in the province. (Right-click to open chart in new tab.)


With salaries ranging from $311,951 to Toope’s $575,813, the University of British Columbia dominates the top-10 list of top-earning university officials in the province. The university, in its disclosure, gives thereasoning behind the six-digit salaries.

“As one of the highest ranked universities in Canada, and one of the top 40 universities in the world, UBC seeks to retain and attract the best senior administrators it can by remaining competitive in its compensation practices with other large research-intensive universities,” reads the document’s preface. “Compensation values for senior administrative roles reflect a weighting of public and private sector values, with a clear weighting in favour of the public sector, and more particularly UBC’s university competitors in Canada and internationally.”

More: Go West, ambitious university president

Toope is currently earning the third-highest salary of all provincial public service employees. Simon Fraser University president Michael Stevenson (at $483,665) and University of Victoria president David Turpin (at $467,671) are also on the top-10 list of overall compensation, weighing in at ninth and tenth respectively.

While high, these figures can be compared to the salary of University of Alberta president Indira Samarasekera, who earned $627,000 in salary and benefits in the 2007/2008 fiscal year. Her number two, provost Carl Amrhein, earned $618,000, while Phyllis Clark, VP of finance and administration, received total compensation worth $654,000 and Don Hickey, VP of facilities and operations, made $668,000.

In Ontario, McMaster University’s Peter George made $534,000 in salary and benefits in 2007/2008. Other top earners that year included University of Waterloo president David Johnston, who made $488,242 total compensation and York University president Mamdouh Shoukri, who, despite his university’s lengthy strike, took home $484,357. In fifth place was University of Guelph president Alastair Summerlee, who made a total of $464,013. For reasons discussed here, while pay packages may appear to be larger out West, it may be partly due to the fact that compensation disclosure by Alberta and B.C. universities is more honest and complete.

For more on university executive compensation, click here.