Scottish university principals top in the UK for travel and hotel expenses

SCOTTISH university principals have claimed some of the highest expenses for international travel and accommodation in the UK, new figures show. A report by the UCU lecturers union found the top spender on airfares was Sir Jim McDonald, the head of Strathclyde University, who racked up costs of 41,891 on flights in 2014/15. The second top spender was Professor Pamela Gillies, the principal of Glasgow Caledonian University, with 39,509 being spent on air travel. Other Scottish principals in the top 20 across the UK included Glasgow University s Professor Anton Muscatelli with travel expenses of 31,300 and Professor Sir Tim O Shea from Edinburgh University with costs of 26,268. Ms Gillies also spent nearly 20,000 on accommodation – more than any other principal or vice-chancellor in the UK in 2014/15.

Mr Muscatelli spent 9,048, Sir Jim spent 6764 and Sir Tim spent 6,146. The report also showed how much universities spent on buying in management advice from outside consultants with Heriot Watt University top in the UK with a spend of 2m. Glasgow Caledonian spent over 1m. The figures were published a day after Scottish university leaders were attacked for accepting inflation-busting increases to their pay packets.

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Figures collated by The Herald show several principals took significant salary increases in 2014/15 despite the current financial climate – either in pay rises, bonuses or pensions changes. The largest overall increase was the 15 per cent accepted by Professor Pete Downes, from Dundee University, who saw his overall remuneration climb to 261,000. Sir Jim remains the highest paid principal in Scotland with a salary package of 343,000. Mary Senior, UCU Scotland Official, said: Normally we are proud of Scottish universities being top of league tables, but these are tables of shame and Scottish university leaders should hang their heads.

However, a spokeswoman for Universities Scotland, which represents principals, said universities were international organisations with extensive connections and partnerships overseas for their teaching and research. She added: “International collaboration improves the quality of teaching, of research and improves the student experience and international travel is necessary to establish and maintain those partnerships. These activities are often income-generating and will more than likely cover the costs incurred by the university.”

A spokesman for Strathclyde University said: “The principal is a global ambassador for the university and forging links with international institutions, academic partners and industrial collaborators is an essential part of his role.”

A spokeswoman for Glasgow Caledonian University said more than 12m was generated by the institution through its international activities in 2014/15.

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She added: “This requires investment and the principal plays a leading role in developing research, business, academic and philanthropic partnerships as well as conferring degrees to students in Bangladesh, South Africa and Oman and working at our campuses in London and New York.

“The principal maximises the value of each business trip by fulfilling a full schedule of engagements to further the interests of the university and Scotland.”

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