British university vice-chancellors’ five-star expenses

The Observer reports that the lavish expense accounts of some of Britain’s university vice-chancellors are today laid bare in an investigation whose revelations have drawn comparisons with the 2009 scandal that did much to undermine the reputation of Britain’s MPs.

Channel 4 Dispatches programme has unearthed evidence that, at a time when lecturers are taking industrial action over potential cuts to their pensions, those charged with running many of the country’s universities are enjoying first-class air travel, five-star hotels and fine dining.

Almost 200 Freedom of Information requests sent to institutions around the country reveal for the first time the claims made by vice-chancellors and their staff. They include a series of questionable items including a “pornstar martini”, a silver salver, Easter eggs and a Fortnum & Mason hamper. One university even paid £1,600 for its new vice-chancellor’s pet dog, a Maltese called Oscar, to be relocated from Australia.

The findings will reignite the debate about the remuneration of those paid to run the country’s universities, which rake in £17bn a year from their students who are paying up to £9,250 in annual tuition fees. The debate was intensified in 2016 by the revelation that the University of Bath had provided its vice-chancellor, Dame Glynis Breakwell, with a grace and favour property, a perk condemned by MPs and academics.

But with more than 60 vice-chancellors now earning in excess of £300,000 a year, there are concerns that their pay packages and perks are out of kilter with those of their academic colleagues who have received an average 1% annual pay rise since 2012 – a fall in real terms.

Commenting on the findings, Robert Halfon MP, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee said: “Those kinds of examples are pretty shocking. Dare I say it being an MP, but the dog example is slightly comparable to duckhouses, which caused the expense scandal for members of parliament in the first place.”

Read more British university vice-chancellors’ five-star expenses

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