Durham spends over £100,000 on refurbishing the Vice-Chancellor’s residence and University guest hosting space

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A FOI has revealed that Durham University spent £102,781.69 on the most recent refurbishment of Hollingside House. The House, where the Vice-Chancellor’s flat is located, was last refurbished from 2015 to 2017 for £700,000. 

As well as the Vice-Chancellor’s flat – which the University estimates to have a rental value of £14,000, up from £12,000 in the previous academic year – the House also includes guest accommodation and hosting space. 

The most recent refurbishments included a new bathroom, kitchen, flooring and decorating for the first-floor flat

A spokesman for Durham University told Palatinate: “The property includes three flats, including a two-bedroom flat for the Vice-Chancellor, and a common public area for events. It also includes guest accommodation, enabling the University to host visiting partners and guests and avoid the need to pay for hotel accommodation. 

“The recent refurbishment of Hollingside House included required works such as the installation of gas and electricity meters and the upgrade of a public catering kitchen. It was delivered in a cost-effective manner through the use of in-house project management and design services, including the principal designer.”

The most recent refurbishments included a new bathroom, kitchen, flooring and decorating for the first-floor flat, where the Vice-Chancellor resides.  

Last academic year, Durham contributed £4000 towards private rent for the Vice-Chancellor while these 6 months of refurbishments were being carried out. 

The Vice-Chancellor’s total pay amounts to 11.29 times as much as the median pay of all Durham staff

Some other roles at Durham, such as Heads of Colleges and their families, also have accommodation provided as part of their employment contracts. However, this is not true for others on much lower salaries. For example, college sabbatical officers are generally offered accommodation – but they must pay for it.

The University’s most recent financial reports indicate that the total emoluments of the Vice-Chancellor increased to £353,000 in the 2022/2023 academic year – compared to total emoluments of £343,000 for 2021/2022 – partially due to the University increasing the estimated rental value of the flat from 12,000 to £14,000. The Vice-Chancellor’s salary was £290,000, which has not been changed since 2021.

The increase means that the Vice-Chancellor’s total pay amounts to 11.29 times as much as the median pay of all Durham staff. Last year the ratio of Head of Institution pay against median pay was 11.

A spokesperson for Durham University told Palatinate, “The salary of the Vice-Chancellor and senior executives is independently set by the Remuneration Committee of University Council.”

“All University staff received the nationally agreed cost-of-living increase in pay during this period. 

“The Vice-Chancellor donates any merit pay award made to the Student Hardship Fund.”

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2 thoughts on “Durham spends over £100,000 on refurbishing the Vice-Chancellor’s residence and University guest hosting space

  • Great article as always by Elizabeth McBride, but an FYI for the university spokesperson who should know better: it is not correct to say “All University staff received the nationally agreed cost-of-living increase in pay during this period.”

    Firstly, last year’s national pay increase (or pay decrease in real terms, as it was well below inflation) was not agreed between staff (through our unions) and employers (through UCEA). The employers imposed the pay offer which we rejected in two votes. They also did not offer much concrete improvement on working conditions (casualisation, workload, equalities). Hence why we ended up with a Marking & Assessment Boycott (MAB). The employers also managed to avoid any further improvements to their pay/conditions offer because our national union leadership mismanaged the MAB so badly that employers knew they just had to wait us out and that only students and staff would suffer, not their own profits.

    Secondly, not all Durham staff are on the national pay spine; e.g. some student workers have been on minimum wage, which doesn’t go up with national pay negotiators between university staff and employers. (Thankfully that is changing because Durham has agreed with the UCU union as part of local negotiations to become a Living Wage employer. So now, all staff will earn at least the Real Living Wage, though for some staff this will still be as a casual rate, not on the national negotiated pay spine.)

    TL;DR: It wasn’t a “nationally agreed cost-of-living increase” but an employer-imposed one, and our employer also doesn’t allow all its casual staff to be paid according to national pay bargaining.

    Caleb Day (anti-casualisation officer for Durham UCU, so I know about these things and sadly have to nitpick things like this and far more serious things quite often)

    Reply
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