Expenses of Durham University Vice-Chancellor revealed: nearly £25,000 spent on luxury flights

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Durham’s Vice-Chancellor spent nearly £25,000 on luxury flights in the past 3 years and even more on hotels, taxi rides and trains.

Originally reported by The Mail on Sunday, Stuart Corbridge, Vice-Chancellor since September 2015, claimed the amount whilst travelling to represent the university internationally. This includes £4,348.86 and £2,168.86 spent on Business and Premium Economy return flights in November 2018, to Beijing and New York respectively.

The Vice-Chancellor travels by economy or premium economy class unless he is required to travel overnight or has a meeting directly after a long haul flight.

Jennifer Sewel, University Secretary, said: “Our Expenses and Hospitality Policy requires all spending to be in the public interest and achieve value for money.

“For example, when flying the Vice-Chancellor travels by economy or premium economy class unless he is required to travel overnight or has a meeting directly after a long haul flight.”

Published expenses show that Vice-Chancellor spent over £3000 in 2018 on accommodation during his travels, and close to £10,000 over three years.

Other claims made include £533.06 and £543.12 spent on taxis in June and July 2018,and £253 spent on a 6 month visa to China.

The University reports the quarterly expenses of senior staff online, including those of all Pro-Vice-Chancellors, the COO and CFO.

All expense claims and payments made to senior managers of the University are in accordance with the University’s financial regulations.

The Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education spent £188.95 on an Apple Pencil and Moleskin iPad Pro case in August of 2017.

The data has emerged after calls for pay restraints on academic staff in 2017, specifically concerning those being paid above £150,000 a year. 

Despite this data, 124 out of 133 universities in the U.K. still pay their Vice-Chancellors more than £150,000 a year as of 2018, and more than 60 universities pay their senior staff up to £300,000 a year. On top of this, salaries of senior staff have continued to rise, with the average salary of university senior staff in 2018 up by 3.2% year on year, now lying at £253,000.

Image by Maddie Fishler

8 thoughts on “Expenses of Durham University Vice-Chancellor revealed: nearly £25,000 spent on luxury flights

  • A quick Google reverse image search shows that the picture used in the article actually comes from a luxury private jet by Emirates. It’s hardly representative of business and premium economy and is misleading at best.

    I wouldn’t call Business class luxury, and premium economy certainly isn’t. It’s certainly better than Economy but you don’t get your own cabin as depicted in the picture. If the authors of this article have ever been on a long haul 12h+ flight, they would know that not withstanding the jet lag itself, it’s quite exhausting. It’s not a problem if you are going on holidays once in a blue moon but it’s a lot more challenging if you are regularly flying and especially if you are flying to Beijing to attend a presumably important meeting and are expected to get a good night of sleep to be fully operational during the meeting.

    Oh and yes, taxis are expensive and taking public transports is not always an option. Perhaps you should make an article about how often the VC is seen cycling to work everyday on the Science Site. I guess that wouldn’t make for a good clickbait article though.

    “Mole Skin iPad Pro case” surely, you mean the brand Moleskine, not actual mole skin. Everything related to Apple is expensive and that price for an Apple pen and an Apple case seems normal to me. Given the number of students in Durham who have Apple laptops, it’s hardly extravagant.

    I am certainly not a big fan on the VC’s slashes to the budget but I think that this article is unfair and gratuitous.

    With that kind of dodgy reporting, the authors are probably ripe for a job at the Daily Mail or the Sun.

    Reply
    • I am a faculty member of Durham University. I travel on long-haul flights for work related purposes (conferences and research visits). Quite often, given the timing, I have meetings with colleagues directly after arriving.

      I am not allowed to travel first class or business class. Why in exactly the same circumstances does the VC get to, but academics do not?

      Reply
      • …because he runs an organisation with an annual turnover of £300 million? I somewhat doubt that your research projects are funded to such a degree. Quite frankly – his meetings are more important to more people than your research, and his time is more valuable.

        Reply
        • What a position to take and state that the VC’s time is more important than others? Interesting the University Secretary states that all spending is in the public interest and value for money. Look at the expenses of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global). Apart from all the Business/First class travel by train – car parking charges in Durham? Spending £320 for travelling to London (Business Class) for processing a visa to China? Seriously – this is what you mean by value for money?

          Reply
        • What a position to take and state that the VC’s time is more important than others! Interesting the University Secretary states that all spending is in the public interest and value for money. Look at the expenses of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global). Apart from all the Business/First class travel by train – car parking charges in Durham? Spending £320 for travelling to London (Business Class) for processing a visa to China? Seriously – this is what you mean by value for money?

          Reply
  • A quick Google reverse image search shows that the picture used in the article actually comes from a luxury private jet by Emirates. It’s hardly representative of business and premium economy and is misleading at best.

    I wouldn’t call Business class luxury, and premium economy certainly isn’t. It’s certainly better than Economy but you don’t get your own cabin as depicted in the picture. If the authors of this article have ever been on a long haul 12h+ flight, they would know that not withstanding the jet lag itself, it’s quite exhausting. It’s not a problem if you are going on holidays once in a blue moon but it’s a lot more challenging if you are regularly flying and especially if you are flying to Beijing to attend a presumably important meeting and are expected to get a good night of sleep to be fully operational during the meeting.

    Oh and yes, taxis are expensive and taking public transports is not always an option. Perhaps you should make an article about how often the VC is seen cycling to work everyday on the Science Site. I guess that wouldn’t make for a good clickbait article though.

    “Mole Skin iPad Pro case” surely, you mean the brand Moleskine, not actual mole skin. Everything related to Apple is expensive and that price for an Apple pen and an Apple case seems normal to me. Given the number of students in Durham who have Apple laptops, it’s hardly extravagant.

    I am certainly not a big fan on the VC’s slashes to the budget but I think that this article is unfair and gratuitous.

    Reply
  • It’s fair to note that all staff are permitted by university regs to travel beyond economy if required for operational reasons.

    The more interesting aspect is to reveal how much air travel was necessary in the context of the climate emergency and how polluting it is relative to other methods.

    Flying is a problem that affects all university staff and surely we should start to address it by replacement transport such as train, where practical, with the support of the university.

    Where not possible, the justification for the flight should be made. Saying that it was time efficient is an argument that I feel we now need to start having to provide evidence for, not just that the person didn’t want to spend the extra time that train or bus travel takes.

    The above if you believe that as university staff, we have a responsibility to travel with as little emissions as practicable.

    Reply
  • That’s a ridiculous position to take.
    You have no idea of the research undertaken versus what the VC is trying to do.
    I am quite confident that they are so different that both are important (otherwise no-one would fund it?) and you might have your opinion but it isn’t the default, that I can say.

    Moreover, the only really important thing is not money but climate impact.
    If we can’t get that into our heads as staff, then we won’t suffer but the next gen will.
    Ironically, the university is mainly made up of these people: undergraduates.

    Reply

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