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.
A 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.”
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