Foreign travel of former v-c's wife under scrutiny

April 30, 2009

The wife of the former vice-chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University went on foreign trips paid for by the institution without her husband.

Patricia Lee, wife of Simon Lee, travelled in a "pastoral capacity", the university said, although she is not an employee of Leeds Met.

Last year, Professor Lee agreed to resign after Ninian Watt, the chairman of governors at Leeds Met, told him to leave or face suspension while concerns about his treatment of staff were investigated. However, he is still employed by the university and is not due to leave until August.

In 2008, Ms Lee accompanied graduate trainees and staff to the Carnegie Alpenrose Centre in Bavaria, and flew to Bangkok and Ethiopia with staff and students.

She was not accompanied by Professor Lee on any of these trips, nor was she with her husband when she travelled to Limoges, France, in 2007 with two members of staff. Travel costs for the trip were paid for on a credit card belonging to an employee of the Carnegie Faculty of Sport and Education.

The university spent £1,671 on Ms Lee's Ethiopian accommodation, and the Bavarian trip cost £417.

The university was unable to give details of any other costs incurred as a result of Ms Lee's foreign travel, and said the trips to the three countries in 2008 might not be an exhaustive list.

Details of the trips were obtained by the Yorkshire Post, which made several hundred Freedom of Information Act requests to the university.

Geoff Hitchins, the acting vice-chancellor, said: "Professor Lee has asked for his wife, on occasion, to accompany him on university functions, or to represent him and to act on his and the university's behalf.

"Some of these visits were authorised by the vice-chancellor, others were agreed and ratified by the chair of the board. We are reviewing the overseas visits made by Ms Lee. If there is any discrepancy in approvals, the university will take this up with Professor Lee."

The newspaper's investigation also revealed extensive spending by the university on sport, including £600,000 on credit cards by the Faculty of Sport and Education between June 2006 and December 2008.

The university also spent £40,000 on sending staff to the Beijing Olympics.

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