HIGHLY paid university principals have been criticised by staff and students for claiming tens of thousands in expenses.
Figures obtained by the University and College Union (UCU) show those in charge of institutions across Scotland are routinely racking up receipts higher than the annual salary of many of those who work for them.
According to details released under Freedom of Information laws, Professor Sir Jim McDonald, who earns £334,000 a year as principal of Strathclyde University, spent £33,508 on flights in 2013/14.
His counterpart at Glasgow University, Professor Anton Muscatelli, spent £27,840 on flights, 82 per cent of which were business class or first class, the UCU said.
Professor Pamela Gillies, who took home £266,000 last year as principal of Glasgow Caledonian University, claimed more than any other UK university leader on hotel stays (£27,271), while Professor Sir Ian Diamond, principal of Aberdeen University, claimed £23,910 for expenses including flights and hotel stays.
The UCU said despite promising more transparency, the university sector was still refusing to release details of secretive remuneration committees, the bodies which set principals’ pay.
UCU Scotland official Mary Senior said: “The time has come for the Scottish Government to legislate to reform higher education governance and ensure that our universities are more democratic, representative and transparent.
“UCU believes universities are, and must remain, autonomous, independent institutions. However, in return for over a billion pounds of public funding each year, politicians are entitled to demand that robust, transparent governance procedures are in place and underpinned with legislation.”
Gordon Maloney, president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, added: “These are really worrying findings, and it’s clear we need to see much tougher action on principals’ pay and benefits, and the transparency and accountability going with that.
“Universities have repeatedly defended the huge pay increases principals have seen but it’s quite clear they aren’t willing to be open and honest about how those decisions are made, which is unjustifiable.
“Just as worrying is the fact that many principals across the country are cashing in on expenses worth well over and above the annual pay of many of their fellow staff. Every principal in Scotland is currently paid more than the First Minister, yet there’s still staff being paid less than a living wage.
“To then see them pocketing tens of thousands pounds worth of expenses, while staff struggle on, underpaid and undervalued, will come across as completely out of touch.”
Strathclyde University said the air fares were “business-related” and reflected the institution’s international outlook.
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