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The 20 highest salaries at UCPH in 2017

New salary figures — Rector continues to be the best paid member of staff at the University of Copenhagen. But a scientist who in 2014 moved to Denmark from the US is only DKK 45,000 short.

Rector Henrik Wegener would have been paid DKK 1.8 million in salaries and pensions in 2017 if he had been number one at the University of Copenhagen (UCPH) throughout the year. But as he first started in March, only DKK 1.4 million was fed into his registered NEMkonto bank account.

He is, in this way, effectively the university’s best paid employee, but Steven Goldman from the US, a leading stem cell scientist, follows closely on his heels with an annual salary of DKK 1.754 million.

Henrik Wegener is also at the high end of Danish universities’ rectors. The average annual salary for the eight rectors was DKK 1,602,246 in 2017, according to a search on the website

Top researchers rewarded

In third place, with DKK 1.62m in annual salary is Kristian Helin, a cancer researcher and director of the Biotech Research & Innovation Centre, BRIC.

The University Post has been granted access to the 20 highest salaries at the university, and apart from rector, you can find Prorector Thomas Bjørnholm – who has just left UCPH – the university director and four deans on the top 20 list.

The rest of the list contains the names of 13 researchers at the very top of their international fields.

Who are we at UCPH

This article is the first of a larger series of articles on the University Post where we investigate who we are at UCPH. In future articles we look at the trends in the different staff groups throughout the university. Which groups of employees are growing, which groups are shrinking and what do salary trends look like for different types of employees?

At 10th place with DKK 1.49m in annual salary we find Professor Maiken Nedergaard. She moved back to Denmark in 2014 after 30 years in the US, where she most recently was a professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

Here she, with her husband Steven Goldman, who is the best paid researcher at UCPH, set up the Center for Basic and Translational Neuroscience at the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences.

The article continues underneath the list


The 20 highest salaries at UCPH in 2017

1. Rector Henrik C. Wegener
DKK 1,800,000 (according to his employment contract)
(He was paid DKK 1,407,637 in 2017, as he was hired from 1st March.)

2. Professor and co-director Steven Goldman
DKK 1,754,923

3. Director and former deputy associate dean Kristian Helin
DKK 1,620,323

4. Former Prorector Thomas Bjørnholm
DKK 1,612,248

5. Professor Rudolf G. J. Westendorp
DKK 1,583,271

6. Professor and Executive Director Henrik Semb
DKK 1,580,791

7. Dean John Renner Hansen, Faculty of Science
DKK 1,553,632

8. University Director Jesper Olesen
DKK 1,546,827

9. Dean Ulla Wewer, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences
DKK 1,507,241

10. Ulf Riber Hedetoft, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities
DKK 1,500,455

11. Professor and Co-director Maiken Nedergaard
DKK 1,490,046

12. Professor and state-appointed forensic pathologist Jytte Banner
DKK 1,434,991

13. Professor Søren Brunak
DKK 1,416,212

14. Troels Ø Sørensen, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences
DKK 1,410,722

15. Professor Ian David Hickson
DKK 1,385,743

16. Professor and executive director Jiri Lukas
DKK 1,372,558

17. Professor Carsten Rahbek
DKK 1,365,900

18. Professor Guillermo Montoya
DKK 1,357,284

19. Professor Michael J. Davies
DKK 1,355,848

20 Chief physician Steen Holger Hansen
DKK 1,331,601

(The amounts include gross income for 2017 with salaries, supplementary allowances and one-off fees – excluding severance pay. In addition, pensions and holiday allowances are included, all of which is included in the payroll system for each individual in 2017. Any adjustments of supplementary allowances from previous years has been subtracted, and the ATP contributions have not been included.)

Could earn more in the US

Maiken Nedergaard says that the couple chose to start a research centre at UCPH, when they each received a DKK 40 million grant from the Novo Nordisk Foundation, and later DKK 40 million each from the Lundbeck Foundation. But they say they accept a significant financial loss by being in Denmark.

“The grant money pays my salary. But I don’t care about the money, but about the research. We chose to move because we wanted to try something new, and test ourselves in Europe. I would also like to give UCPH something back, as I got a good education here,” she says, adding:

“In research you can’t take anything for granted, and you have to be ready to be evaluated every time you submit an article or application. But it is a huge privilege to be allowed to do research, and the good scientist is not concerned about his salary, but about his next article.”

She feels that many young researchers in Denmark lack the necessary ambition.

“You need to be dedicated and always keep in mind that you’re not better than your next article. The quality and importance of your work is crucial, and you can’t take five weeks vacation if you want to get to the top, says Maiken Nedergaard.

Moving was a huge decision

Professor and leading scientist in the field of ageing research Rudolf G. J. Westendorp is the 5th best paid at UCPH with an annual salary of DKK 1.58m, says that the salary did play a role when he, together with his wife, decided to move his family from the Netherlands to Denmark.

The change meant that he had to give up his permanent position as a professor at Leiden University and as director of the Leyden Academy. The family had to sell their townhouse, he had to give up his pension scheme, and they had to say goodbye to friends and family.

“My wife and I decided to make the change anyway, and as we expected it would be more expensive to live in Denmark, I asked for the same salary that I received in the Netherlands. If I had been offered less, this would have influenced our decision,” he writes in an e-mail.

He is surprised that this apparently means that he is one of the best paid at UCPH, he adds. But professors in the field of medicine apparently earn more in the Netherlands than in Denmark.

Does not experience widespread dissatisfaction

Associate professor Thomas Vilstrup Pedersen, joint staff representative for academic staff at UCPH, says that it is difficult to say anything in general about what a reasonable salary level is. This depends on things like the specific employment, the person’s qualifications and the opportunities for recruitment.

“Research qualifications, including the ability to attract external funding, are important in this context. But this ability should not in itself be decisive for researchers’ salaries,” he says.

Among academic staff, he does not see widespread dissatisfaction with the fact that a group of top researchers with large external grants get a good salary.

“But you can easily find some that find it completely wrong to have a scientist getting one and a half million kroner a year,” Thomas Vilstrup Pedersen adds.

By way of comparison, an associate professor at UCPH earns an average of DKK 620,161 annually and a professor earns DKK 867,289.

Fundraising abilities rewarded

Associate Professor Jørgen Stamhus of the Department of Economics and Management at Aalborg University has done research on wage levels and the ‘new salary’ system in the public sector. He does not think there is anything surprising about the top salaries at UCPH.

“That is probably the general level,” he says.

He does consider it a trend however, that researchers who are good at getting external research grants are rewarded with more in salary.

“Money follows the money in the sense that it is easier to get a supplementary allowance from management if you can set up your own income basis,” says Jørgen Stamhus.

Wage differentials are accepted

He adds that ordinary staff do not compare their own salaries with that of management or top researchers when they assess the fairness of their own contracts.

They find a basis for comparison at their own level – this could be colleagues with the same tasks or education level, either internally within the organization or outside.

“Differences in pay are considered acceptable if there are objective criteria justifying it. However, if the salary structure in an organization is experienced as unfair, this can lead to dissatisfaction and other counterproductive effects,” says Jørgen Stamhus.

The UCPH management has not wished to comment on the salary figures.