Scots university chiefs accused over 'luxuries'

UNIVERSITY principals have been accused of living a luxury lifestyle at the taxpayers' expense after hundreds of thousands of pounds of public cash was spent on chauffeur-driven cars and entertainment.

• More than 138,000 was paid on cars for Sir Duncan Rice

Documents released under Freedom of Information legislation reveals vice-principals being ferried around in official cars and spending on entertainment and travel. Some even had their homes paid for.

The bill for chauffeur-driven vehicles included more than 138,000 during a three-year period for a car and driver for the University of Aberdeen, which, the institution said, was "used mainly" by former principal Sir Duncan Rice.

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He is now earning 60,000 working as a charity fundraiser for the university he led until April. He regularly travelled in the chauffeur-driven car between 2007 and 2010 at an annual cost of 47,116, 47,870 and 43,371 respectively.

His expenses package also included more than 42,000 to cover the cost of housing him at an official residence, Chanonry Lodge in Old Aberdeen, and more than 22,000 towards travel and entertainment during the same three-year period.

Other big spenders on chauffeur-driven cars included Edinburgh Napier University, which spent nearly 69,000 on a car and driver used by principal, Joan Stringer over three years.

The University of Stirling spent more than 22,000 on a car for use by senior staff, including former principal, Christine Hallett.

Stringer spent more than 93,000 on travel and entertainment during a three-year period.

The principal of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, John Wallace, ran-up nearly 79,000 in travel and entertainment expenses in the same period.

Other major entertainment and travel pay-outs were made by the University of St Andrews, where Louise Richardson succeeded the previous incumbent as principal last year, and Queen Margaret University, where Petra Wend took over from Anthony Cohen last year, with the taxpayer having to shell-out more than 66,000 and 60,000 respectively during the past three years.

Institutions spending large amounts on official residences for their principal included Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh (Anton Muscatelli), which paid more than 150,000 for roof repairs and 72,922 to cover the cost of living in the home.

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St Andrews also paid out more than 30,000 to cover the accommodation costs of its principal.

Lothians Labour MSP Lord George Foulkes said "When there are job losses, wage freezes, and cut backs in all education, including higher education, it is outrageous that public money is being spent on chauffeur-driven cars and excessive hospitality.

This is a luxury that simply cannot be afforded

"I will ask each institution to curb these excesses immediately. When ordinary lectures and teachers are unemployed and when students are struggling it is wrong for those top people to be living in the lap of luxury".

However, the body representing Scottish universities suggested that institutions having their own cars could save taxpayers' cash. A spokesman for Universities Scotland said: "Universities work very hard to find the most effective way of fulfilling their duties and spending thousands of pounds on taxi receipts is not necessarily the cheapest option."

Universities are mainly funded by the state although funds are also raised privately. A Scottish Government spokesman said: "A considerable share of university funding does come from the taxpayer.

"As a result, spending decisions are made public, with outside scrutiny likely to increase in the current economic climate."