Strathclyde principal tops travel expenses list

By Émer O’Toole, Editor-in-Chief 

Strathclyde’s principal, Professor Sir Jim McDonald, has topped an expenses list released by University and Colleges Union.

The figures were published by the union as part of a larger body of data, retrieved through freedom of information requests to universities across the country, which showed that university principals received some of the largest increases in pay, pension contributions and expenses in the UK for the year 2014/2015.

The average spend on airfares for university bosses was £8,506.37 and Strathclyde University spend the most, paying £41,891 on flights for Professor Sir Jim Mcdonald.

As well as earning an average salary of £272,000 per year, up by some £12,000 on the previous year, the study found university bosses spent an average of £9,000 a year on air travel with half of the flights in first or business class.

Almost half of all flights taken by vice-chancellors (49.6%) were in business or first class, while 21 university leaders flew exclusively in these two classes.

The highest paid overall was Professor Andrew Hamilton of Oxford University, who took home a pay package, including benefits and pension contributions, of £462,000 last year.

The average spend on hotel bills was £2,989.93, the report showed. This was based on data from 128 institutions.

Glasgow Caledonian spent the most on hotels for Professor Pamela Gillies at £19,864.77.

There was a drop in expenditure on both flights and hotels, between 2013/14 and 2014/15 the report suggested.

The report follows news that leading universities want to be exempt from FoI legislation on the grounds that they are private institutions, despite getting almost £4bn a year from the taxpayer.

The union said only 22% (35 of the 159) of the universities provided uncut minutes from the meetings that set vice-chancellors’ pay.

A total of 27 vice-chancellors saw their pay increase by more than 10%, compared to 18 bosses the year before, revealed UCU’s data.

Vice-chancellors’ pay has come under the spotlight in recent years, with UCU leaders raising concerns in 2014 about the “arbitrary nature of pay rises for university principals.”

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