Edinburgh University spends over £17,900 on Principal’s house bills

This is on top of his £342,000 salary

The Principal of the University of Edinburgh had a total of £17,910 worth of maintenance bills paid for by the university last academic year, The Edinburgh Tab can reveal.

The figure includes £5,800 spent on gas and electricity in Peter Mathieson’s private residence, which was donated as a gift to the university in 2015.

Mr Mathieson’s other costs paid for by university funds include £1,745 on gardening and cleaning, and £300 on an AGA cooking service. This is all in addition to his annual salary, which is currently £342,000.

The figures (in full below), obtained by a Freedom of Information request, reveal the full extent of spending by Edinburgh Uni on the Principal’s £1.75 million residence, located in central Edinburgh and described as a “four-storey midterrace stone-built 200-year-old building with five bedrooms, four reception rooms, kitchen”, and a garden.

The University of Edinburgh says that the residence is used not only as a family home, but “as a venue for hosting formal university events, and as such, the institution covers fuel costs and costs for maintaining the building”.

The university did not address The Edinburgh Tab’s questions about whether the funding arrangements are fair or efficient.

In 2021-22, the Principal’s residence used over six times as much gas and over five times as much electricity as the average UK household, according to figures from energy regulator Ofgem.

In the same year, the highest individual maintenance cost associated with the property was £4,932 spent on joinery works and window sill replacement.

The overall figure of £17,900 spent on the house amounts to fees for almost two years of tuition for a non-Scottish UK resident studying at Edinburgh University.

It comes as students in Edinburgh are preparing for higher energy bills this winter, due to rising inflation and wholesale energy prices increasing, largely due to disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine.

Despite an emergency freeze on rent prices introduced by Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, and the forthcoming cap on the price of energy per unit introduced by Liz Truss, a weak pound is likely to drive everyday costs up further.

It also follows last week’s reporting by The Edinburgh Tab that dozens of Edinburgh Uni students have been sleeping in bunk beds in converted common rooms in Pollock Halls.

The University of Edinburgh has not said it plans to change the way in which it funds the Principal’s living arrangements.

The Principal’s housing bills, 2021-22:

  • Investigate and repair noise/fault in water system – £56.16
  • Council tax – £4,243.55
  • Electricity – £3,198.53
  • Gas – £ 2,601.29
  • Aga cooking service – £300.55
  • Joinery works repairing window sills/sill replacement/mastic sealant – £4,932.62
  • Supply and Install wireless detection – £563.15
  • Cleaning costs – £1,080.00
  • Window cleaning – £270.00
  • Landscape/gardening – £665.00
  • TOTAL – 17,910.85

The Principal’s utility usage, 2021-22:

  • Gas: 82,746.5 kWh (average UK household usage = 12,000 kWh)
  • Electricity: 16,021.0 kWh (average UK household usage = 2,900 kWh)

 Speaking to The Edinburgh Tab, a spokesperson for The University of Edinburgh said:

“In common with most other universities, accommodation for the University of Edinburgh’s Principal and their immediate family is provided as part of the role. The Principal’s residence is not used solely as a family home but also frequently as a venue for hosting formal university events, and as such, the institution covers fuel costs and costs for maintaining the building.

“The residence is used for official events to welcome international guests and dignitaries which strengthens the University’s global reputation and increases our partnerships and potential funding streams.

“Increases in the cost of living affect everyone and we want to support our students as much as possible throughout an increasingly challenging period. We offer one of the best financial aid packages for undergraduate students in the UK, and spend millions of pounds every year to help students who want to study at Edinburgh.

“We provide our students with a range of financial and wellbeing support, and any students who are experiencing financial difficulties are able to access our various financial support schemes.

“We also have a range of initiatives to help students manage the cost of living, including fixing rents in our University residences, absorbing the recent rise in energy costs and fixing café prices for the current academic and financial year.”

The process and context for the decision on the level of the Principal’s remuneration is set out here.

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