University of New England vice-chancellor Brigid Heywood has welcomed a parliamentary report recommendation that the NSW government review pay levels among senior university administrators.
Professor Heywood is the cheapest university Chief Executive in the state, paid just$639,999 a year, according to the latest data.
The best paid, Dr Michael Spence of the University of Sydney earns more than double that.
A NSW Legislative Council inquiry recently recommended giving the state's Auditor-General the power to investigate whether university "financial and staffing management is transparent, effective and acting in the public interest,"
Professor Heywood said the university - which slashed $20 million in staff costs last year - rightly "benchmarked" her wage as part of the downsizing process.
"I think universities and all universities across their entire staffing structure have to be able to justify that they are competitive and that their reward and remuneration structures are fit for purpose," she said.
"I always welcome these sorts of reviews. My salary is a matter of public record."
But she said the conversation should be a "mature" one and recognise that the sector had significant "commercial value" - but did not offer the same kind of non-salary benefits, like share and dividend options, as the private sector.
"Putting it in context, If you've got multi-million dollar business and you want the kind of expertise required to run them then are you arguing that you pay differently than the corporate sector?
"I think that the corporate sector more generally is being evaluated for its competitiveness in all the different ways that matter. Then I think are universities are obliged to be part of that kind of review and step into it, step into it openly."
The report said committee members were concerned about the "vast disparity" in salaries between senior administrators and the "casual and insecure payments" to many junior teaching staff.
"The current system that sees University Vice Chancellors paid 25 or 30 times more than many of the people undertaking the core work of universities must be reviewed and the failure to do this by the governing bodies of universities is evidence of a failure of leadership," the report said.
The upper house future development of the NSW tertiary education sector inquiry inquiry released its final report last week.
Committee Chair Mark Latham condemned "empire-building" by metropolitan universities' and "edifice complex", saying big city tertiary institutions had long overbuilt their campuses into "mini-cities".
The inquiry instead recommended the government develop a model of planning for "industry cluster" institutions like UNE planned campus in Tamworth.
The recommendation comes in response to the UNE's submission to the inquiry.
Professor Heywood said she hoped that indicates the governmentis beginning recognise the importance to regional economies of rural universities.
"It's definitely a green light for the Tamworth development," she said.
"It recognises the importance of competitive critical mass. Australia has been slow to recognise that these things can't just happen organically.
"It does require investment, it does require support and it does require different models of facilitation."