The expenses of university vice-chancellors have come under the spotlight, but Cambridge University has declined to hand over the information.
Channel 4’s Dispatches, due to air tonight (February 26), will look at lavish expenses being claimed by top staff in Britain’s universities at a time when many university staff are striking over fears for their pensions.
Among the universities investigated by the programme is The University of Surrey, which paid £1,600 to relocate Professor Max Lu’s Maltese dog, Oscar, from Australia to the UK in 2016 – something the university defended as a “reasonable expense” to bring the professor to the country.
But Cambridge University, one of the most prominent universities in the world, let alone the UK, declined to divulge details of the vice chancellor’s expenses when approached.
'The University is committed to openness and transparency and is currently reviewing its procedures'
A spokesman for Cambridge University said the request had simply been too large and time-consuming for staff to deal with. He did, however, say the university was launching a review of the procedure, and said there would be some “very positive” results from the review which would be available soon.
Cambridge University news
The spokesman said: “The producers of the Dispatches programme approached the University through an FOI request. What was asked for was two years’ worth of receipts for the senior leadership team.
“Due to the nature of the University’s systems, it was decided that this would have taken up too much time and effort for staff to collate.
“The University is committed to openness and transparency and is currently reviewing its procedures to see if there are ways in which it can speed up the provision of such data in the future.”
University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Sally Hunt said: "Higher education has had to endure months of terrible headlines over the pay and perks scandals of those at the top.
'The dog example is slightly comparable to duck houses'
"The lack of self-awareness while they feather their own nests yet hold down staff pay, use insecure contracts and try to slash pensions, is quite staggering."
Robert Halfon, chairman of the education select committee, said there needed to be greater transparency about university expenses.
He told Dispatches: "Those kinds of examples are pretty shocking, dare I say it being an MP, but the dog example is slightly comparable to duck houses which caused the expense scandal for members of parliament in the first place."
He added: "Well this is public money, and just as it's a requirement now for MPs to publish their expenses, universities should be subject to the same procedures."
Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said: "It's just not good enough. The next Labour government will set a clear limit on vice chancellors' pay packets, stop them setting their own salaries and scrap student fees entirely."
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