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In full: Vice Chancellor’s 90k expenses laid bare

Figures also show that pro vice chancellors spend hundreds in pub business meetings

Greg Ritchie
Greg Ritchie

Oxford University have published the expenses records of Vice Chancellor Louise Richardson on its website, revealing how she has racked up over £90,000 in expenses since her appointment in 2016.

Cherwell analysis of the new data shows that this figure includes almost £25,000 in fees for private drivers escorting the Vice Chancellor to and from events – despite University commitments to refrain from using such transport arrangements.

It follows a widespread media campaign urging for transparency over the full levels of the Vice Chancellor’s remuneration. Richardson has repeatedly defended her pay against this popular backlash, once comparing her £350,000 salary to those of footballers and bankers.

Oxford is believed to be the first university in the UK to publish its vice chancellor’s expenses online in this manner. However, the published records do not divulge the full details and instead categorise individual claims under general headings.

Nonetheless, Freedom of Information (FoI) requests sent and seen by Cherwell do help paint a fuller picture of the expense claims – as well as the as the as yet unpublished records of the University’s Pro Vice Chancellors.

In total, the University has spent just over £92,000 on the vice chancellor’s expenses. The largest portion of this is made up of long-haul flights, for which the Vice Chancellor travels in business class. Over the two and a half years for which there is data, this figure totals at over £48,000, or approximately half of her total expenses.

Another major contributor is the cost of hired cars and drivers. In total, the University has spent approximately £24,000 on personal drivers for the Vice Chancellor since Louise Richardson started the role. Over the months of May and June 2017, driver costs were particularly high, with each month seeing over £2,000 spent.

The University’s website states: “The Vice Chancellor travels by train where possible. In circumstances where the VC is travelling under strict time constraints, is attending numerous business engagements in multiple locations and/or is travelling very late at night or early in the morning, she travels by car.”

The records do show that the Vice Chancellor’s office has made clear efforts to reduce her expenses over the course of her tenure, however, perhaps a result of public and media pressure. Richardson no longer buying first class tickets when travelling on rail. While the current year is not over, it is also likely that 2018 will see less University money spent on personal drivers and the Vice Chancellor’s expenses more generally.

Beyond these main contributors, there are also the smaller peculiarities.

Almost £300 was spent of corporate gifts, with a similar figure being splashed on stationery. Richardson also charged her subscription to Foreign Affairs’ newsletter to the University.

The University also covers Richardson’s quarterly subscription to the Harvard Club, an association for alumni of the American university, coming to around £125 each quarter. The University told Cherwell that this gave access to accommodation and to meeting and hosting facilities below New York market rates, making a net saving.

A Cherwell FoI request also revealed that she spent £1,262 for a stay in the luxury Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong, while also claiming £145 for a trip to Wimbledon to watch the tennis championships.

An Oxford SU spokesperson told Cherwell: “It is deeply worrying to see such high levels of students money being spent on the expenses of senior management staff. We are seeing worsening conditions for students, from the quality of accommodation to a lack of welfare services but our money is being funnelled into expenses for senior management.”

A University spokesperson told Cherwell: “Oxford University is ranked as the world’s strongest university, generating some £5.8 billion annually for the UK economy. To help deliver this, the Vice Chancellor forges global research and education partnerships, raises funds from international supporters and recruits the outstanding academics and students on whom Oxford depends.

“The demands of keeping the University as a world leader are continual, involving sustained engagement with current potential funders, donors and partners, and extensive worldwide travel.

“These are all legitimate expenses raised in the cause of keeping Oxford in the forefront of the worldwide advancement of learning.”

While there have been extensive investigations into the renumeration of the Vice Chancellor by this paper, there has been little interest in that of the University’s Pro Vice Chancellors.

However, an FoI request seen by Cherwell outlining the corporate credit card statements of the various Pro Vice Chancellors does shed some light.

Pro Vice-Chancellor with specific responsibility for external affairs and development, Professor Nick Rawlins, spent £304.25 over five trips to The Anchor Inn, in an expense listed as ‘Drinking places (alcohol bev.) – bars, taverns, nightclubs’.

In similar fashion, former Pro Vice Chancellor with responsibility for research, Professor Ian Walmsley, spent £144 at Be At One on 2nd December 2016, in a filing again listed under ‘Drinking places’.

When pressed on this, a University spokesperson told Cherwell: “Oxford’s team of Pro Vice Chancellors play an essential role in the University’s global pre-eminent position. Their respective portfolios requirethem to meet and establish partnerships with the world’s leading players in education, in research, in national and international policy-making, as well as with the donors who support our outstanding contribution to understanding and the international economy.

“They all host key guests from their respective fields at Oxford and travel frequently to build the links which a modern, constantly innovating University requires.

“In so doing, they incur expenses which are a legitimate part of their work maintaining and enhancing Oxford’s exceptional academic environment.”

The salaries of the Pro Vice-Chancellors are not published by Oxford. The annual Oxford accounts do give a figure for the total and average remuneration of ‘Key Management Personnel’ – including the PVCs, the Registrar, the Heads of Division, and the Director of Finance, but excluding the Vice Chancellor.

In 2016/17 a total of £2.4m was paid to this group, comprising of 12.5 post-holders.

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