£1.5m for Bath v-c's pad rings alarm bells

April 26, 2002

Bath University staff and students are worried that spending on academic facilities is at risk after the university spent more than £1.5 million on a house in a Georgian crescent for the new vice-chancellor and for university entertaining.

Last year, the university committed £2.5 million, £500,000 of which is not recoverable, to the English Institute of Sport, a training centre for world-class athletes. The £26 million project will be based on the campus but separate from the university, although the university sports department will be able to use it for research.

The Association of University Teachers said this week: "It is a sad reflection of the drift in many universities that fine trappings for vice-chancellors and enhanced sports facilities are now seen as a higher priority than expendi-ture on academic requirements."

The AUT was due to meet to discuss the spending this week. They are also concerned about early retirements in the education department.

The university insists the purchase of the six-bedroom house in Lansdown Crescent for vice-chancellor Glynis Breakwell does not compromise expenditure on teaching or research. It used a recent £500,000 bequest from a local family and £1 million of stock-market equity.

Deputy vice-chancellor George Lunt said the cost was high but "very wise" from an investment point of view. He said the house would be a strong asset to borrow money against. The vice-chancellor's accommodation on campus was a "small family" house, unsuitable for entertaining. Guests were put up in local hotels and entertained in the university dining room, he said.

Postgraduate students have been living in the house on campus for the past five years as previous vice-chancellor David VandeLinde bought a house privately. Professor Breakwell has been commuting from Surrey.

Professor Lunt said buying the house was a university decision and a register would be kept of its use. Bath had been concerned for some time that it had no presence in the city. Planning consent for the university in the 1960s stipulated that no part of the university should be visible from the city.

"Visitors expect it to be an integral part," Professor Lunt said. "They're disappointed - no one can pretend the university is an architectural gem."

He said the house would be a "shop window" for the university in the city.

The students union said that many students had been outraged by the purchase, although president Daniel Yeo said the union believed it was the right thing for the university to do.

Professor Breakwell took up office last September. She was previously a pro vice-chancellor at Surrey University.

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