£1m wages bill for Scottish uni in New York with no students

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A SCOTTISH university has spent more than £1 million on wages at its New York campus despite having no degree students.

Unions have called for an independent inquiry after it was revealed that Glasgow Caledonian University’s (GCU) lower Manhattan campus has spent the extortionate sum despite having not awarded a single degree.

Opened in 2014 by the then First Minister, Alex Salmond, the university has still not been awarded its licence to teach and award degrees.

It has now been revealed that the campus in Manhattan has paid out over £1 million in wages but only employs four members of staff.

It was also discovered that GCU’s principal, Pamela Gillies, has made the journey across the Atlantic 13 times on visits, racking up a travel bill in excess of £81,000 in the process.

Professor Gillies is reported to have stayed a number of luxury hotels during her visits but the university say that any trips are “subject to scrutiny” by finance committees.

The spending, revealed in a freedom of information (FOI) request, was condemned by Nick McKerrell, convener of GCU’s combined union committee and a law lecturer.

He said: “The continued extravagant spending on GCU New York is unjustifiable in an age of austerity.

 

GCU's New York campus has no students - two years after opening
GCU’s New York campus has no students – two years after opening

 

“It is incredible and unsustainable that the university has signed a 15-year lease without securing a licence from the New York education authorities.

“Maintaining a potential campus thousands of miles away requires expensive jet setting from our senior management at a time when staff based in Glasgow have had to tighten their belts and deal with a real-terms cut in their pay.

“There needs to be a full independent review of the plans and full transparency over the GCU New York scheme.”

The FOI request also showed that Professor Gillies had made numerous trips to the Manhattan site between 2013 and 2015 at a cost of over £81,000.

On these excursions, she stayed at a range of top hotels, including the five-star Gramercy Park and the luxury Crosby Street Hotel, in the Soho district of the city.

A GCU spokesman defended the salary payments and visits made by high level members of staff.

They said: “The principal and vice-chancellor plays a leading role in developing research, business, academic and philanthropic partnerships as well as conferring GCU degrees to over 1,000 students in Bangladesh, South Africa and Oman and working at our campuses in London and New York.

“Professor Gillies maximises the value of each business trip by fulfilling a full schedule of engagements to further the interests of the university and Scotland.

“This includes working with, and invitations to, the United Nations Synergos and the Rockefeller Foundation, and Forbes Women’s Summit.”

They continued: “Professor Gillies travel and accommodation costs are subject to scrutiny by the finance and general purposes and audit committees, as well as the University Court, which includes independent governors and two staff trade union members.

“The business case for GCU New York, which includes staff salaries, is also subject to scrutiny by the university’s governance structures and is included in our audit plan undertaken independently by our internal auditors Ernst & Young.”

The New York campus has played host to a number of public talks and commercial events, despite no students being officially taught there,

Their application for a licence to teach was submitted in 2014.

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