Schools caterer gobbles its way into universities

May 20, 2005

It has gained notoriety for feeding the nation's schoolchildren "nutrition-lite" meals such as the Turkey Twizzlers lambasted by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Now giant catering company Scolarest is making strides into the university sector.

Already operating in "almost 40" universities, according to its website, it has recently struck two further catering deals in the sector - at Middlesex University and, provisionally, at University College London - causing an uproar.

Middlesex has taken over all commercial activities - canteens, bars and shops - from the students' union (MUSU) and plans to hand over the running of these to Scolarest next term. The company has held the catering contract for the university's own activities for the past eight years.

Middlesex said the union's commercial activities had been operating at a loss for "some years" and had accumulated debts of more than £300,000.

A spokeswoman said: "The university cannot afford for this to continue yet, in spite of good intentions, there is no sign that MUSU can repay the debt."

A petition against the move, signed by more than 800 students, was dismissed by the university. It agreed the plans before the results of a referendum, which were 1,058 to 455 against the move, became known.

Raymond Robertson-Worth, senior bar supervisor for the MUSU at the Trent Park campus, said: "I'm pissed off. The cheeky sods [at the university] said we were in commercial conflict with its own operations, but what happened to free trade? A bit of competition doesn't hurt anyone, and the students gain."

At UCL, Scolarest confirmed it had been "informally notified" that it had won a contract to provide catering, subject to the agreement of contractual terms.

Guy Kershaw, UCL's deputy estates and facilities director, said that the deal, involving the main UCL refectory for staff and students, would provide "quality food at the right price".

But support staff union Unison said a campaign to keep catering "in-house" was sweeping the university - with more than 1,000 signing a petition in two weeks.

A Scolarest spokeswoman said its higher education operations were entirely separate from its schools' business - which has to run on a highly restricted budget.

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Professor of Military Technology THE SWEDISH DEFENCE UNIVERSITY
Director of Digital Services STAFFORDSHIRE UNIVERSITY
Technician for Psychology Programmes ST MARYS UNIVERSITY, TWICKENHAM

Most Commented

Home secretary says government will support 'best' universities

Woman drinking tea from saucer

Plugging a multibillion-pound deficit exacerbated by June’s poll result may require ‘drastic measures’, analysts have warned

PhD lettered on book spine

Billy Bryan and Furaha Asani look at how to get the most out of your doctoral studies

Italy's gold medallist

New measures to ensure universities are ‘not penalised’ for taking poorer students also outlined for next stage of TEF

Classroom, school

Higher education institutions can and should do more to influence education at a secondary school level, says Edward Peck