Concerns have been raised that the new president and vice chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast is to be paid a salary of £249,000.
Prof Patrick Johnston will take up the role on 3 March.
However, SDLP MLA and member of the Public Accounts Committee John Dallat yesterday expressed concern about the salary, which is £19,000 more than the previous incumbent.
“I am seriously concerned about a number of high ranking salary earners in the Northern Ireland,” said Mr Dallat.
“The vice chancellor is certainly one of them.”
He added that fuel poverty is “somewhere near 50 per cent” and advocated a cap on exceptionally high salaries, arguing that people are not purely motivated by money.
He also acknowledged that Prof Johnston had brought Northern Ireland from the bottom of the UK league table to near the top in terms of cancer treatment.
But NI21 leader Basil McCrea defended the salary.
“If you don’t want to pay the money then you will not get the person you need,” he said.
“And I find that its a really important job and that you will have to pay to attract they calibre of person that you want.”
Pro-chancellor and chair of Senate Rotha Johnston, who was a member of the selection committee, said: “Queen’s is fortunate to secure a world-class leader of the calibre of Prof Johnston.
“He is an outstanding academic with a distinguished record of achievement who will not only further improve the university’s status as a world-class institution but will benefit Northern Ireland society as a whole.”
A spokeswoman for Queen’s said Prof Johnston was appointed following a world-wide recruitment search.
His salary is approved by the Remuneration Committee, which is composed of senior non-executives from Senate, the governing body, she said.
Queen’s has an annual turnover of £300m and contributes over £700m annually to the economy, she added.