University spends £1.2 mln on luxury townhouse

Silja Slepnjov

Kirsty-Louise Hunt
News Editor

The University of Strathclyde has come under fire after reports that it has spent almost £1.2 million on a luxury Glasgow townhouse.

The five-floor property includes living accommodation for Strathclyde’s Principal, Professor Sir Jim McDonald, who has been the focus of recent controversy surrounding his 5% pay increase for 2012/2013, which brought his salary to £262,500 per year and makes him the most highly paid university principal in Scotland.

At a time when staff are being asked to accept a mere 1% pay rise in the face of squeezed budgets, the University and the Principal have been subject to speculation over their spending priorities.

The purchase of the townhouse, situated in Glasgow’s Park Circus, is intended to replace the existing University House which forms part of the Jordanhill campus.

The now defunct Jordanhill campus is still owned by the University, which hopes to dispose of the site in the long-term.

The finance for the new townhouse property was approved by the University Court, the key decision-making body on campus, in May 2013.

A Court minute stated: “The Chief Operating Officer introduced a proposal to acquire a property to replace the University House situated on the Jordanhill campus.

“Court noted that the property would be of equivalent value to the existing University House and that the University House at Jordanhill is no longer suitable given the consolidation of the University on the John Anderson campus.”

It added: “Members commented that the University should be clear in explaining the cost of the property and the primary use of the property for hosting University business as appropriate.”

The court went on to approve “the acquisition of a property up to a maximum value of £1.25 million with a maximum total expenditure of £1.5 million including refurbishment costs.”

The University spent £1,180,000 on the new property in December, with a further £300,000 earmarked for refurbishment.

According to its floorplan, the townhouse has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a dining room, drawing room, two sitting rooms, three offices, a workshop, ‘show’ room and study.

According to the Court minute, Professor Sir Jim McDonald was present at the sign-off meeting, as was then University of Strathclyde Student Association (USSA) president, Malcolm Moir.

Current USSA president Kwaku Adjei said:

“The USSA executive sitting on Court at that time raised some concerns but court members were content with purchasing a new property to replace the existing one located in Jordanhill.

“We will always put pressure on the University to invest as much as possible on learning and teaching and the student experience.”

Mary Senior, Scotland Official for University and College Union (UCU), who have been engaged in recent strike action, said:

“Staff at Strathclyde University will be stunned by their employers pleading poverty, while buying a luxury town house for the principal in one of Glasgow’s plushest postcodes.

“Staff in our universities have seen their pay fall in value by 13% over the past five years, whilst those at the top seem oblivious to the hypocrisy of lining their own pockets and splashing out on pet projects, such as this million pound property.

“A recent glut of embarrassing stories over principals’ pay and perks have made a mockery of any suggestions that we are all in this together.

“The money is there for fair pay for all, not just a handful at the top.

“The university needs to justify spending huge sums to house the principal whilst driving down staff pay.”

A spokeswoman for the University said:

“The University purchased the property in Park Circus to replace an existing property at Jordanhill. The property will be used for corporate events and business engagements. The property also has living accommodation for the Principal when he is in Glasgow.

“The purchase will enhance the University’s property portfolio and be a long term investment for Strathclyde.”} else {