City’s university defends travel bill for head and lover

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‘A former MP who heads the city’s university campus has been slammed for notching up tens of thousands of pounds in travel expenses by taking luxury business trips abroad with his lover.

Vice chancellor Bill Rammell, 55, is in a relationship with colleague Helen Bailey, who was promoted from head of performing arts to executive dean last year.

Since then the pair have jetted off together to visit partner institutions and conferences in Beijing three times and Miami once, a new FOI request has revealed.

Each trip has lasted three or four days and all flights were business class rather than economy. The couple’s joint travel bill is more than £30,000.

This week the University of Bedford press office insisted the foreign visits generated ‘important business’ for the uni, which includes University Campus Milton Keynes

But Citizen sources claimed they were a waste of money. “There’s a lot of disquiet at the uni about Bill and Helen’s travel.

We realise such trips are necessary to encourage international students, but we don’t understand why both of them have to go. One or the other should be suffice.”.

“Also, we always thought it was university policy for staff to save money by travelling economy class. It seems unfair that these two should spend thousands more by flying business class.

“The cost of one trip alone would pay a student’s tuition fees for almost two years.”

The spokesman added: “Travelling business class enables the vice chancellor and University staff accompanying him to work in flight and immediately on arrival, ensuring that visits overseas are short and focused entirely on university business..”

He said the university derives up to £35 million of its income each year from international students and partnerships with international institutions.

He added: “The Executive Dean for Academic Partnerships, Professor Helen Bailey, is the strategic lead for the University’s work in building and maintaining partnerships with other universities and colleges locally, nationally and internationally, and with other stakeholder bodies.”

Mr Rammell and Ms Bailey were accompanied by one other specialist staff member on eachof their trips.

A visit to an education conference in Miami cost £9,959, while one brief visit to Beijing cost £17.091 for three people. A second Beijing trip cost £13,705 and a third £6,897.

Said a source: “That’s a huge amount of money when you can get economy return flights for less than £500.

“There is probably free accommodation available at partner campuses out there. as well.”

A uni spokesman declined to give details of hotels used by Mr Rammell and Ms Bailey during the trips but said staff were always “mindful” of incurring too much cost.

“The vice-chancellor’s expenses for meals during a recent trip to Beijing did not exceed £75 for four days,” he said

During his time as a Member of Parliament, Bill Rammell was ordered to pay back £2,782 in expenses.

An investigation during the MP’s expenses scandal found he had wrongly claimed for a garden table, suitcases, newspapers and printing materials.

Mr Rammell, who insisited at the time he was always in the bottom 25 per cent of MP claimants, repaid the sum immediately .