The universities who spend the most on art

They’ve wasted more than £20million on paintings and sculptures overall

Oxford have spent £9million on art in the last five years and dropped nearly £8million on a single painting.

Runners up are Cambridge and Durham who spent £5million and £2million in total on portraits and sculptures.

A Freedom of Information request from the BBC revealed how much universities have been spending on artwork.

The single most expensive piece was Claude’s “Portrait of Mademoiselle Claus” which cost Oxford a staggering £7.9million.

UWE also paid £23,000 for a sculpture of the dog from Wallace and Gromit, but at least the proceeds went to charity.

Meanwhile Liverpool, Aberystwyth and Hull spent absolutely nothing at all.


Some unis spent millions on art, while others spent nothing. A handful of universities refused to give a response to the request

A spokeswoman said for Unison said: “We are appalled that universities can think about investing £20m in works of art when a significant number of institutions still pay their employees significantly less than the living wage.

“Universities must be more accountable on how they spend their money. The huge amount going on works of art suggests that during these austere times, universities are choosing style over substance.

“As nice as they might be to look at, paintings, statues and sculptures don’t enhance teaching, and leave the lowest paid staff on campus unable to have a decent standard of living.”

Even the sculptures at Leeds are wavy

Even the sculptures at Leeds are wavy

A spokeswoman for the University of Oxford insisted some of the money for artwork came from lottery funding.

They said: “The Oxford Ashmolean’s mission is to be the world’s greatest university museum of art and archaeology.

“The museum seeks to acquire objects and works of art, either through bequest, gift or purchase, which relate to and enhance the permanent collections.

“Newly acquired objects are made available to the widest possible audience for enjoyment and study, either by their display in the museum’s galleries or by entering the study collections which are used by scholars, students and interested members of the public from across the world.”

Durham said their uni was “a custodian of many fine treasures”.

They added: “The university organises regular free guided tours of the collection and staff, students and members of the public are encouraged to come and enjoy it.”