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Revealed: Sir Peter Mathieson spent £13,000 on business class flights in just one year

‘80 percent of the flights were business, but 100 per cent were subsidised by student fees’


Sir Peter Mathieson spent just shy of £13,000 on business class flights last year as he “represented the university on a national and international stage”.

Data obtained through a freedom of information request shows the University of Edinburgh vice-chancellor’s aversion for economy travel as he chose to almost exclusively fly in business class.

Mathieson – who took 10 flights last year – spent £12,761.78 enjoying a lie-flat bed at the front of the plane, and just £476.91 in economy.

As staff continue to fight the university over ongoing pay and working conditions, UCU Edinburgh has taken aim at Mathieson’s extravagant spending.

A spokesperson for the union told The Edinburgh Tab: “Too much of the university’s expenditure goes on excessive remuneration and perks for top managers. UCUE advocates for more of the budget of the university to be spent on paying staff properly, particularly the lowest paid, and addressing the decline in real pay our members have experienced over the past 13 years.”

“The amount spent on the VC’s flights alone would have covered most of a PhD student stipend.”

In total, Mathieson embarked on ten plane journeys within this period. Further expense details include a total of £1,506.51 spent on nine nights of accommodation and £477.12 spent on taxis in the same financial year. The hospitality expenses for Professor Mathieson reached £2,700.49, covering 13 university business events.

Mariela Brown, a second year Classics student told the Edinburgh Tab: “Mathieson has proved time and again he would rather waste the time and money of his staff and students than be an adequate principal of a once great university. His cavalier disregard of people’s needs in return for his own comfort and luxury is unforgivable, especially given the state of the country right now.”

The data also reveals Sir Peter has been clocking up his carbon emissions. The principal spent only £276.71 on domestic flights and made no trips to Europe meaning the vast majority of his trips saw him travelling long haul across the globe.

The data also reveals Sir Peter has been clocking up his carbon emissions. The principal spent only £276.71 on domestic flights and made no trips to Europe meaning the vast majority of his trips saw him travelling long haul across the globe.

Will Lewallen, a final year philosophy student, accused the vice-chancellor of being “utterly-insincere”

The Master’s student told The Edinburgh Tab: “Mathieson is on record saying they’re ‘deeply concerned’ about the climate crisis and that they can best help by ‘making sustainable choices’. But they buy land from locals and plant trees instead, when really they should stop flying business class around the world on student’s money.

“Don’t believe a word that comes out of senior management’s mouths. They do not have the interests of the climate, their students, and certainly not their staff at heart.”

A spokesperson for Edinburgh University said: “The Principal is responsible for the overall operation of the University and as such represents the University at strategically significant meetings and events worldwide.”

However, UCU Edinburgh pointed out the university has begun providing “carbon literacy training” to a growing number of staff and students.

The union told The Edinburgh Tab: “Whilst this may have come in after Peter Mathieson spent nearly £13,000 on business class flights, there was a clear understanding that business class travel was supposed to be restricted to exceptional circumstances.”

An Edinburgh University spokesperson said in full: “The University operates on a national and international stage and this is reflected in all areas of university life. The Principal is responsible for the overall operation of the University and as such represents the University at strategically significant meetings and events worldwide. In addition, he supports the global alumni community, our network of international offices and is also closely involved in maintaining and developing relations with major supporters of the University.”

Featured image before edits via Shutterstock/M101Studio

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