“I was treated like royalty!” – University staff claim on four-star and five-star hotels


University officials are spending thousands of pounds on five-star and four-star luxury hotels – one described as treating you “like royalty from the moment you walk in”.

A York Vision investigation has found dozens of purchases being made for luxury living arrangements in countries such as Nigeria, the United States and China.

In total last year, our Freedom of Information findings have uncovered more than £1 million being spent across 20,000 transactions on the university’s credit card system, which is separate from formal expenses.

These included claims for four-star and five-star luxury hotels and luxury chauffeur services.

One hotel claimed for included more than £800 for a two night stay at the Transcorp Hilton hotel in Abuja – ranked one of the best in the Nigerian capital.

A second Nigerian hotel, the Intercontinental Hotel in Lagos, stayed in by some of the country’s top celebrities and politicians, involved a charge of £749 for three nights accommodation.

A third hotel, the Regency Hotel in Kuwait, charged £849 for a four night stay.

The Data Protection Act prevents this newspaper from uncovering the identities of the individuals nor can we know certain specifics but our investigation has also found thousands of pounds being spent at other plush destinations around the world.

At the five-star Oberoi Hotel in Bengaluru, which provides each guest with their own private balcony overlooking three acres of land, an official claimed for more than £1,050 on the university’s credit card.

And at the Kempinski Hotel in Beijing, which offers limousine and butler services, more than £1,100 was asked in a transaction.

On the website TripAdvisor, which asks guests to review the hotels stayed in, user KhalilE25 wrote of the Regency Hotel in Kuwait: “I visited the property for 3 nights at the end of March and from the moment I walked in I was treated like Royalty!

“The rooms are lavish, the food and service are of top class.

“I have stayed at some of the top properties worldwide and I would not hesitate to recommend the Regency Kuwait to everyone. I also had 2 spa treatments and they were excellent.”

The Kempsinki hotel offers limousine and butler services.
The Kempsinki hotel offers limousine and butler services.

To apply for a university credit card, otherwise known as a Government Procurement Card (GPC), members of staff have to complete two forms – the ‘Cardholder Application’ form and the ‘Request for the Issue of a Purchase Card’.

York Vision understands that the ‘Request for the Issue of a Purchase Card’ form has to be signed off by the applicant’s Head of Department to say they authorise the person to have a card.

When the card is used to purchase goods and services, all transactions have to be checked and authorised by the cardholder’s nominated budget approver.

Other claims uncovered by York Vision include more than £650 being spent on a YouTube video captioning service, £300 on limousine services, £926 on purchases to the Leeds United football club ticket office and over £200 on biscuits for the CPD suite in the Ron Cooke Hub.

Students last night slammed officials for their spending.

Lauren Malcharek, a first year politics and international relations student, said: “I think it’s ridiculous that as students we have no other choice than to get ourselves into over £27,000 worth of debt at the end of university but staff are allowed that amount of money to spend on something that isn’t exactly essential, when they could be working on trying to make students expenditure less by reducing the price of accommodation.”

Jack Spring, a first year TV and production student, joked: “I hope they nabbed the free soap and toothpaste”.

Sam Maguire, the YUSU President, said: “This is an absolute joke, how can the University cry that they are poor and have no money for things when money is wasted on unjustifiable luxuries.

“We will be writing to the heads of department to express our anger at this, Premier Inn has a good nights sleep guarantee, if it is good enough for Lenny Henry it should be good enough for everyone here.”

A university spokesman said they could not fully comment without assessing each individual claim, but they did add: “GPC cards are one of our preferred methods of purchasing because they reduce transaction costs.

“All expenses charged to the University have to be approved by line managers.

“However, many items charged to GPC cards are re-charged to external sponsors (for example, research funders).

“In these instances, expenditure would have to be in line with the funders’ rules.”

7 thoughts on ““I was treated like royalty!” – University staff claim on four-star and five-star hotels

  1. I am sure when the author becomes an internationally recognised expert in his field, he will continue staying in the youth hostels in Nigeria.

    Seriously, most of the hotel fares cited are about £200 per night. This is pretty average for an international chain (where the standards are consistent). Most conferences, exhibition and fairs take place in 4 or 5 star hotels and to stay somewhere else undermines the very purpose of going (networking).

    This is besides the idiotic mention of the biscuits in CPD courses – these (courses) are provided to industrial attendees who are paying literally thousands of pounds to atten one week or shorter courses. The clients expect certain level of service and CPD courses henerate huge income for the University (and therefore a subsidy of undergraduate degrees)

  2. While I agree with this article for the most part, and most of the stuff the uni is spending money on they really should not be, I would ask what the problem is with paying for captioning of YouTube videos. Wasn’t that something that the Disabled Students’ Network was spending time campaigning for? If the university is going to use YouTube then surely them wanting to make it accessible is not a problem?

    I do agree with most of the article, but was just curious why a captioning service would make it in here

  3. I would rather save money abolishing Sam Maguire and his pen-pushing brigade in YUSU rather than making measly savings for people who actually try to make a difference for students.

  4. Some context would be useful in this article. As an alumnus (and donor) I care how the University spends it’s money but calling out video captioning?! And a McDonalds? Please. You are better than this Vision.

  5. I suppose we need to cut the lecturers some slack. They do appear to refer to themselves as “internationally recognised experts” from the comments, which is utterly laughable.

    The phrase IF YOU CAN’T DO, TEACH has never been so relevant.

    Let them go on their shit holiday if it makes them feel better, if only for a short while.

  6. I don’t think that Premier Inn have a branch in Abuja… Seriously, in some countries visited staff security is a very real concern, and staff would be put at risk if asked to stay in cheap establishments in unsafe parts of town, without the additional security provided in the higher-end hotels. I would hope that people would be equally outraged if the university put staff or students’ lives at risk in order to save a couple of hundred quid. More expensive hotels are also sometimes selected over cheaper options in order to then enable savings on local transport costs and staff time (not every city in the world is as compact as York. Being centrally-located will enable staff to fit more appointments into their day, and thus get better value for money from the visit).

    Whilst there is sadly often a minority of people in any walk of life who might look to take advantage, there is a system of checks in place to prevent abuse of the university credit card, and in my personal experience the majority of staff at this institution have integrity and, very aware of the strains of departmental budgets, will always seek to find an appropriate and realistically priced option when travelling overseas (as evidenced by the fact someone had a McDonalds for their meal, rather than a lobster platter…).

    Although that perspective doesn’t perhaps create such a scandalous headline for you.

  7. Videos weren’t captioned up until mid-2013, when Tron pointed out that not doing so was a violation of equal-access, to which we said “fair enough!” We looked into captioning them manually by hand but worked out that in terms of cost-per-hour it was cheaper to outsource it to an external agency. No idea if they’re still using the same one, but we looked pretty hard to find the best value service we could. That £657 will have most likely covered around ten hours of footage.

    The uni’s a business – these purchases REALLY aren’t that extravagant. Go do some proper investigative journalism instead of ringing up the press office and doing an FOI on the purchase req form.

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