Sheffield Uni VC who introduced compulsory climate lectures spends £55k on flights

And he refuses to compensate us for strikes


The University of Sheffield’s vice-chancellor has been slammed for spending £55,000 on luxury flights and generating 187 tonnes of CO2 emissions while rolling out compulsory climate change lectures.

Koen Lamberts and his nine senior deputies flew 39 times – 24 on expenses and half of those in business class – between October 2018 and December 2019 to destinations including Shanghai, Hong Kong, Melbourne and Chicago.

This is despite him declaring a “climate emergency” as the first university boss nationally to embed sustainability classes in every degree, and refusing to compensate students for lectures and seminars cancelled due to strikes.

Now Lamberts is facing charges of “rank hypocrisy” from furious campaigners.

A freedom of information request by The Tab Sheffield reveals Lamberts spent almost £11,000 on flights in just nine months last year, travelling 32,500 miles.

One month after he spoke at a climate strike in September, where he told students to “work and live in a sustainable way”, Lamberts flew in Virgin Atlantic business class from London Heathrow to Shanghai and back for a keynote speech, costing £4,600, fully expensed.

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Koen Lamberts decried a ‘climate emergency’ in a speech in September

He also jetted business class from Manchester to Beijing in February 2019 “to meet key partner institutions and alumni”, with the university funding his £2249.43 return ticket.

In May Lamberts, on £285,000 a year, flew in business class from Heathrow to San Francisco on American Airlines with deputy VC Gill Valentine, who preaches in the uni’s ‘climate survival plan’ of an “urgent need to cut emissions”, expensed at £7,850.

In his address to the Sheffield climate strike in September, Lamberts said of the compulsory climate lectures: “We want every single one of them [students] to be equipped with the education and the knowledge, the skills, the values and the attributes that they need to work and live in a sustainable way. In doing so we really hope that Sheffield students will become change-makers for a sustainable future.”

From flights alone, the 10 managers guzzled 187 tonnes of CO2, with Lamberts’ carbon footprint at 24.41 tonnes. The average Briton emits a maximum of 18 tonnes a year from their whole lifestyle.

The Tab Sheffield revealed in October how the VC spent £10,000 on two diesel chauffeur cars and a gas-guzzling mansion in his first six months in charge. He made 118 rides in the car, while Valentine made 70. Bosses also faced protests when they accepted £1,400 from oil giants BP and Exxon Mobil for stalls at a careers fair.

Overall the 10 members of Sheffield’s University Executive Board (UEB) spent £54,555 on university-funded flights last year, plus another £11,686 on 15 flights covered by external parties including the Hong Kong government.

Hypocrisy: Deputy VC Gill Valentine preached about an ‘urgent need to cut emissions’ – but spent thousands on flights herself (Photo: UoS)

Other big spenders included Dave Petley, Sheffield’s vice-president for research and innovation, who racked up a £13,297 bill jaunting off to Ghana, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, Beijing, Singapore and Melbourne, trips listed under “conferences”,  “meetings” and “research” in official documents.

Chris Saltmarsh, co-director of youth climate group People and Planet, blasted the bosses. “Sheffield University’s senior managers undermine their own efforts to build a reputation as strong in sustainability and climate change by indulging in luxurious frequent flying at the cost of their own institution,” he told The Tab Sheffield.

“These managers need to realise their rank hypocrisy on the climate crisis and put an end to spending thousands of pounds on frequent long-haul flights around the globe. Only then will their plans to teach students about climate change carry any credibility.”

The UCU hit out at Lamberts for a “lack of self-awareness” and causing “embarrassment for the university sector”, while staff prepare to strike for 14 days this month over pensions and pay.

Harry Carling, Sheffield SU development officer, said it is “vitally important that the University embodies changes within its own operations”.

The University of Sheffield refused to explain why so many flights were business class. A spokesperson said: “Sheffield works in partnership with more than 400 universities as well as research institutes and major companies across the globe. These partnerships help us to seek solutions to global challenges, raise the profile of Sheffield and bring investment to the Sheffield City Region.”

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