More than £20,000 was splashed by senior officials on the inauguration of York’s sixth chancellor, Sir Malcolm Grant, including almost £10,000 on a fireworks display and over £3,500 on a buffet lunch, according to information obtained by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act.
Students have accused management of “disgusting” expenditure but Registrar and Secretary David Duncan defended the costs. He said: “These figures are very low for such an important series of events.”
At the first of five events held on October 27 last year to mark the University’s newest chancellor in just over 12 years, guests were treated to a plush £3,500 buffet lunch complete with two helpings of tea and coffee inside a £940 room hire at the National Science Learning Centre.
Guests then went on to watch Sir Malcolm confer three honorary degrees, which incurred costs of £250 for three hotel bookings.
Afterwards, the installation ceremony of Mr Grant took place inside Central Hall at a cost of more than £2,300. This included £1,200 for programmes, £800 for a three-hour streaming camera, £200 for flowers, £160 for organ tuning and moving and £36 for certificates.
Outside the ceremony on Greg’s Place, a 12-minute display of Catherine wheels and rockets cost over £6,700, while almost £3,000 was spent on lighting and audio.
Other costs billed included almost £2,500 for security, including fences and sandbags, and almost £500 for photography. Parking permits for £10 were also charged.
Last January, former YUSU President Sam Maguire accused Sir Malcolm of being “out of touch” after comments resurfaced from an old BBC interview where he advocated scrapping the tuition fee cap, potentially seeing students paying more than £9,000 in fees. The cost of his inauguration is likely to fuel anger over his appointment.
Stephen Harper, a postgraduate digital systems engineering student, said: “I think it’s disgusting when so many aspects of university life need funding, student support being a major one, that the University instead splashes the cash on the divisive new chancellor.
“I think nothing outlines the differences between Malcolm Grant and Greg Dyke more than Malcolm costing students 20k and Greg donating the money necessary to redevelop Vanburgh Paradise.”
Elliott Ball, a third year maths student, added: “I’m not against money being spent on campus events such as fireworks, however before they spend it on fireworks it’d be wiser to invest it in things like making Uni Sport more accessible to all students, not just those who want to shell out on membership.”
A spokesman for the University said: “Sponsorship was secured to cover costly elements of the inauguration events during the day, including gown hire from Ede and Ravenscroft and £10,000 from Evans property Group for the Student Community Fireworks Showcase.”
Speaking to York Vision, David Duncan added: “The main costs were covered by sponsorship, while other outlays related primarily to the presentations on our research themes, which form part of our public engagement agenda. The feedback we received on the research theme presentations was very positive.
“We are grateful to Evans and Ede & Ravenscroft for their generous support.”