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Five-star hotels and pornstar martinis: The maddest things Vice-Chancellors claimed on expenses

VCs and their colleagues claimed almost £8m in the last two years

University Vice-Chancellors and senior staff have claimed almost £8m in expenses in the last two years, according to data revealed by Channel 4's Dispatches.

Five-star hotels, first-class air travel, and fine dining are among the items claimed by university senior staff, during a period when their pay packages are under heavy scrutiny as some earn almost £800,000 a year

The Freedom of Information requests also revealed that Vice-Chancellors have claimed for pornstar martinis, easter eggs, and a Fortnum & Mason hamper. One Vice-Chancellor even spent £1,300 on a painting.

As university staff strike over cuts to their pensions, one university paid £1,600 for its Vice-Chancellor's dog to be relocated from Australia.

More than 60 Vice-Chancellors are earning over £300,000 a year and the country's universities rake in almost £17bn annually from their students. Lecturers and their academic colleagues on the other hand have seen annual wage rises of one per cent since 2012 – a fall when adjusted for inflation.

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Professor Christopher Snowden

Southampton University claimed the most on expenses in the two year period, topping out at over £400,000. Sheffield University's Vice-Chancellor claimed over £90,000 in expenses including food, flights, and hotels, whilst his deputy claimed over £35,000 during an 18 month period.

Unattributed fine dining expenses included dinner for five at a two Michelin starred nordic seafood restaurant in New York, for £442. Another claim for dinner with nine guests in Boston, Massachusetts totalled £1,028. One university claimed £1,936.46 on a lunch with another £405.70 spent on booze.

Travel expenses included a Vice-Chancellor's five night stay in the 5* Mandarin Oriental hotel in Singapore with their spouse, including meals and limos totaling £3,107.54. Another Vice-Chancellor claimed for four nights stay at a 5* hotel in Kuala Lumpar, Malaysia including flights and taxi services totaling £5,187.33.

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Professor Steve West

Professor Steve West the Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West of England, claimed a round trip to Kuala Lumpur, Syndey, and Melbourne including flights, limos, and meals totalling £7,045.74.

West has claimed £43,000 in expenses, including £10,000 with an executive car firm describing itself as “the premier chauffeur service in Bristol and the south-west.” Whilst his management team has claimed £118,000 in the same period for a total of £161,000.

West was recently appointed to the government's newly established Office for Students. The Office for Students aims to ensure students get value for money with regards to their education.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, currently embroiled in the pensions debate, questioned what message West’s appointment sends to students.

Robert Halfon MP, the Conservative chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee called for all universities to publish the expenses of all their senior management.

Halfon said: “Those kinds of examples are pretty shocking. Dare I say it being an MP, but the dog example is slightly comparable to duckhouses, which caused the expense scandal for members of parliament in the first place.”

Of the universities asked about Vice-Chancellors’ expenses, 13 either did not respond or refused to do so including the University of Leeds, the University of Oxford, Cambridge University, the University of Manchester, Anglia Ruskin University, and the University of Plymouth.