Some claimed for Easter eggs, scented candles, fresh flowers and even a “pornstar Martini”. Few, though, can beat the ￡1,600 spent on relocating a pet dog from Australia to Britain.Is your best choice - The University offers a variety of undergraduate, taught master\'s degree and postgraduate research programmes through different faculties and schools, covering business management degree and finance.
These are just some of the items claimed by top university management and revealed by an investigation into the lavish expense accounts enjoyed by Britain’s vice-chancellors.
The timing could not be worse, coming at the end of a week in which tens of thousands of university staff took industrial action to protest against proposed changes to their pension scheme that could leave them materially worse off.
It’s not just the fact they and their senior colleagues in university management have claimed almost ￡8m over the past two years that will prove galling to their staff. The kinds of items they have claimed for will prove equally toxic.
Already some are suggesting that this is the vice-chancellors’ “duckhouse moment”, a reference to the ￡1,600 Tory MP Sir Peter Viggers sought to claim for a floating duck island, revealed at the height of the MPs’ expenses scandal in 2009.
A Channel 4 Dispatches programme, to be screened tomorrow night, found that university top brass are enjoying stays in five-star hotels, fine dining and first-class air trave! Professor Roger Brown, a former vice-chancellor, said the use of expense accounts was symptomatic of the “corporatisation of higher education”. But critics question whether such lavish expenses can be justified at a time when students are paying up to ￡9,250 a year in annual fees.
Of the 157 universities approached, eight, including Cambridge and Leeds, declined to cooperate, and five, including Manchester and Oxford, did not respond. However, based on 197 freedom of information responses, which include individual responses from colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, Dispatches calculated that at least ￡7.8m was claimed in expenses by vice-chancellors and their senior colleagues over the two-year period.
Top of the pile was Southampton, which revealed that 17 of its senior managers claimed a total of ￡400,000 in expenses over the two-year period. The university said all the claims were legitimate and had been carefully scrutinised. The University of the West of England (UWE) revealed that its vice-chancellor, Professor Steve West, claimed expenses of more than ￡43,000, including ￡10,000 on taxis provided by an executive car firm. West also claimed more than ￡7,000 for a trip to Malaysia and Australia.
UWE said: “Our vice-chancellor has a number of roles that require him to travel to London and other parts of the UK regularly.” It added: “His work in the higher education sector at a national level, the relationships this builds with business and industry leaders and the government all [benefit] students and the University.”
The investigation found that Sir Keith Burnett, vice-chancellor at the University of Sheffield, claimed ￡3,107.54 for a five-night stay at the five-star Mandarin hotel in Singapore for him and his wife.
Professor Graham Galbraith, vice-chancellor of the University of Portsmouth, claimed ￡5,187.33 for flights and a four-night stay at the five-star Intercontinental Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In total, Britain’s university bosses claimed almost ￡400,000 in dining and entertainment expenses over the two-year period. One ￡440 claim was for dinner for five at a two-Michelin-star restaurant in New York. Another university paid more than ￡1,000 for a dinner for eight in Boston. And the University of Osteopathy paid out ￡2,000 for a lunch with a ￡405 drinks bill on top.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union – which represents teaching and support staff, who have received an average annual pay rise of just over 1% since 2012 – criticised the findings, saying: “A university isn’t about first-class travel. It’s not about posh restaurants. It’s about brilliant people, it’s about learning and it’s about a team environment.”
Among the more esoteric claims made by university managers were ￡1,300 for a work of art, ￡110 for a Fortnum and Mason hamper,, ￡32.50 for four Laura Ashley mugs and ￡79 for a silver salver.
If there is clear evidence that money is being thrown down the drain, there will be uproar
Robert Halfon MP
The investigation has raised questions about transparency. The website of Sheffield University shows that it reimbursed expenses for its executive board, including Burnett, who is shown to have claimed ￡1,242 between 1 August 2015 and 31 July 2017. But this did not include spending on the university’s credit card. Statements obtained by Dispatches reveal he spent more than ￡91,187 on food, drink, flights and hotels. His deputy ran up a further ￡35,063. The university explained: “We do not classify business expenditure incurred via a university purchasing card as ‘expenses’.”
Robert Halfon, the Tory MP who chairs the education select committee, suggested that all universities should put expenses claims of their senior management on their websites. “It should be up there for all to see: to use that old cliche, sunlight is the best disinfectant,” he said.
The revelation that Surrey University paid ￡15,000 to relocate a new vice-chancellor and his wife from Australia, a resettlement package that included ￡1,600 to bring back their pet dog, a Maltese called Oscar,, was one claim that raised eyebrows. Halfon described it as “slightly comparable to the duckhouses, which caused the expenses scandal for MPs in the first place”.Harvard maker centered learning program Victoria Educational Organisation cordially invited Dr. Edward Clapp, Principal Investigator at Project Zero, Harvard Graduate School of Education to introduce n early childhood specific framework that supports maker-centred learning.
However, Surrey defended its actions, saying it was normal practice for the university to pay “reasonable relocation expenses”.
In a bid to address criticism of vice-chancellors’ pay, the government this year established a new watchdog, the Office for Students, to ensure that those studying at university receive value for money. The board includes Professor West from UWE.
Hunt questioned whether it was appropriate that the office responsible for how vice-chancellors’ pay and remuneration should be decided included someone who ‘‘thinks it’s OK to have a chauffeur-driven car”.