By Sadie Robinson
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Revealed—university bosses claim millions in expenses while workers face pensions cut

This article is over 6 years, 1 months old
Issue 2593
University vice chancellors have claimed millions in expenses - but claim workers pension scheme is too expensive
University vice chancellors grab millions in expenses – but claim the workers’ pension scheme is too expensive (Pic: Neil Terry)

University vice chancellors are claiming millions in expenses to swan around in fancy hotels and posh restaurants while workers face savage attacks on their pensions.

A Channel 4 Dispatches investigation found that vice chancellors (VCs) and other senior staff have claimed around £8 million in expenses over the last two years. And 13 universities failed to respond to its Freedom of Information requests—so the real figure will be even higher.

The revelations come as workers in the UCU union are set to begin their second week of strikes on Monday in a fight to defend their pension scheme. They make a mockery of bosses’ claims that there’s no money for pensions or workers’ pay.

The expenses claimed include a payment of £1,600 by Surrey university to ship over a VC’s dog from Australia. The payment was on top of a £15,000 resettlement package for the VC and his wife.

Steve West, VC at the University of the West of England, claimed £43,000 in expenses.

At Southampton, 17 top bosses claimed £400,000 over the two years. Sheffield University’s VC, Sir Keith Burnett, claimed £3,107.54 for him and his wife to stay five nights at a five-star hotel in Singapore.

Not to be outdone, Graham Galbraith, VC at the University of Portsmouth, claimed £5,187.33 for flights and a four-night stay at a five-star hotel in Malaysia.

VCs have also claimed expenses to cover meals and drinks in Michelin-starred restaurants.

Among the other claims were £1,300 for a work of art and £110 for a Fortnum and Mason hamper. Some VCs claimed for Easter eggs and flowers. One claim covered a “pornstar martini”.

Interestingly, universities don’t seem to consider much of the spending to be “expenses”.

Dispatches found that Burnett spent over £91,000 on food, drink, flights and hotels. But the university said it has paid just £1,242 in expenses between August 2015 and July last year.

It said, “We do not classify business expenditure incurred via a university purchasing card as ‘expenses’.”

The expenses are on top of massive salaries. More than 60 VCs “earn” over £300,000 a year. And the vast majority are involved in setting their own salaries.

The boss of the university workers’ pension scheme is also raking it in. Bill Galvin got a 17 percent pay rise this year. His pay went up by £82,000—to £566,000.

Fat cat bosses’ drive to turn universities into businesses has caused massive anger among workers and students. It has fed into the strikes.

As University College London striker Joanne said, “Academics feel that management are against them. Our VC has said he wants to spend money on buildings, not pensions.

“But the pension attack will mean the best academics leave, it will harm education. I’ve never been on strike before, but this is a really strong cause. I want my children to have a decent education.”

UCU members at 61 universities will begin a three-day strike on Monday. Show solidarity by joining picket lines from 8am and send your reports and pictures to [email protected]

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