Cambridge University Vice-Chancellor for hire?

Freedom of Information requests submitted by The Cambridge Student can reveal that the Vice-Chancellor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz has made 23 trips abroad since he first took office in 2010. The total cost to the Vice Chancellor's office stands at just under £70,000 however, raising questions about the level of external funding the Vice-Chancellor receives to attend foreign events.

The vast majority of Sir Leszek Borysiewicz's engagements were to Western countries, including five trips to the USA and two to Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum in Davos. During his tenure the Vice-Chancellor has made no visits to Africa, South America or Australasia.

It must be stressed that data provided to TCS give only the direct cost to the Vice Chancellor's office. The University asked TCS to note that "many of the costs incurred by the Vice-Chancellor are "either paid or subsequently reimbursed by external host organisations (or sometimes paid by other University Departments), and so for some trips there are no costs listed at all". The university did not provide details of who these external funding sources were. The Freedom of Information Office declined to estimate the cost to the University as a whole since it believed that this would be too costly an enquiry. A public body can refuse to find the requested information if they believe that the cost will be in excess of £450.

The exact financial details of the Vice-Chancellor's trips paint a somewhat blurry picture. A trip to the ‘Far East' this April cost the Vice-Chancellor's office £14,675, but short jaunts to Spain and Italy at the end of 2011 are listed as costing nothing. Close to half of the total money spent by the Vice-Chancellor's office during his tenure funded trips to the USA costing £30,000 in total. This raises many questions with regard to the connection between the funding received and the countries visited, especially considering the apparent bias towards the West.

In addition to the exact costings of the Vice-Chancellor's travel arrangements, TCS has also queried whether the Vice-Chancellor's received a fee for appearing at recent speaking engagements in India: the Convocation address for both LPU and Lovely Institute of Technology on 7 September, 2012 and The Indian Institute of Science, 13th of September this year. In both cases the Vice-Chancellor received no fee for attending.

One graduate, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "It seems if you have enough money, securing an appearance from the Vice Chancellor has been reduced to the broad equivalent of hiring a magician for your child's birthday party."

Ben Richardson - News Editor

Article first published 18 October 2012

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