A university chief has been accused of hypocrisy for imposing a pay freeze on staff and delaying spending at the same time as taking expensive flights to business meetings overseas.
A Freedom of Information request found that Bill Brammell, vice chancellor of University of Bedfordshire, which runs University Campus Milton Keynes, has taken seven long distance flights with colleagues since his appointment in September 2012, at a cost of £28,197.
The university points out it has a policy to take economy class flights but the vice chancellor has the discretion to vary the policy and has a contractual right to use first and business class when travelling by train or air.
But the vice chancellor’s decision making has been called into question by a representative of the staff union.
A spokesperson for the University and College Union (UCU) said:
“Staff at the University of Bedfordshire are out on strike today because their pay has been slashed in real terms by 13 per cent in the past four years.
“The hypocrisy of a vice-chancellor enjoying a six-figure salary and these kind of perks, while keeping down staff pay and citing our financial position as a reason to freeze and delay spending, is quite staggering.
“The people running our universities really need to learn there is not one rule for those at the top and one for everyone else, and come back to the negotiating offer with a fair deal for staff.”
The flights detailed by the university included Muscat in Oman in the middle east, Canton, Beijing and Hong Kong in China and Singapore.
A university spokesman pointed out that the reason for the flights is to access the lucrative international student market.
It was to attend graduation ceremonies at overseas partner institutions; to liaise with overseas partner institutions; to explore and form new relationships with potential overseas partner institutions; and to deliver a keynote speech at the Going Global Conference.
He said: “Income from international recruitment and international collaboration totals £30 million of the university’s overall income of £140 million.
“The cost of travel to secure this business overseas should be seen in this context.”
The university also revealed that it is its practice that the vice chancellor is accompanied by at least one other member of staff on all overseas visits.