Concerns have been raised about the “inequality” of salaries at Welsh universities after it emerged 210 staff earned more than £100,000 a year.
The union UCU said the high pay of senior staff was in contrast to the average salaries of other university teaching staff on insecure contracts.
It said they were underpaid.
The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (Hefcw) said Welsh universities needed to compete to get the best staff.
It was commissioned by the Welsh Government to compile a report on the salaries of university leaders, after an assembly committee recommended collecting information on senior pay across the public sector.
The research, released to BBC Wales under the Freedom of information Act, found that Cardiff University had by far the largest number of higher-paid staff in Wales, with 136 receiving more than £100,000 between 2014-15.
It also found that, including pension contributions, seven of Wales’ eight vice-chancellors were paid more than £200,000 last year.
Number of university staff earning more than £100,000 in 2014-15
Aberystwyth – 4
Bangor – 17
Cardiff Metropolitan – 9
Cardiff University – 136
Glyndwr University – 2
Swansea University – 28
University of South Wales – 10
University of Wales Trinity Saint David – 4
Cardiff University’s Vice Chancellor Colin Riordan continues to be the highest-paid head of a Welsh university, earning £288,000 after pension contributions.
But the report stressed that pay in Welsh universities was comparable with other institutions of the same size and stature in the UK.
It concluded Welsh universities now operated in an international marketplace, and to compete at that level, pay needed to compare with that of other UK universities if the best talent was to be recruited.
It also said that some vice-chancellors’ salaries were lower than similar universities across the country and comes after a warning from the previous Welsh education minister Huw Lewis that higher education could not expect to avoid cuts for ever.
However, the UCU, which represents higher education staff, said it was “concerned” about the pay gaps at universities.
“Our main concern is the inequality between the average salary of VCs in Wales, compared to the average salary of other staff in our universities, particularly when taking into account that undergraduates are likely to be taught by a member of staff on an insecure, fixed-term contract,” a spokesman said.
“Staff on insecure contracts struggle to deliver the high level of professional service that they strive for, when faced with working conditions that leave them underpaid, vulnerable and constantly facing the prospect of unemployment.”