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A first class university?


Sarah Turvill, Chair of Council at the University of Exeter offers her opinion on the recent University expenses news story run by Exeposé, affirming there was no ‘scandal’ and these expenses are necessary to Exeter’s continued development as a university.   


Like many, I read the most recent edition of Exeposé with interest. As always, it demonstrated just how passionate our students are about engaging with all facets of University life.

Of course, the biggest talking point centred around the front page story relating to staff expenses, which posed the question of whether it amounted to “a first class scandal?” Let me take this opportunity to reassure you that the simple and honest answer to this is no.

I fully understand that, when taken in isolation, the amount mentioned within the article may seem significant. We find ourselves living through an era of austerity, where every penny spent is scrutinised and questioned and this is entirely appropriate. So you may be heartened to know that this is also the case here at Exeter. It is a commitment that is led by the Vice Chancellor and the University’s Full Council, and embraced across our body of academic and professional staff.

“It is right that costs are met by the University, not its staff”

There are, of course, a number of ways in which we ensure this is the case. One such way is ensuring that any expenditure accrued while conducting business on behalf of the University is both justified and proportionate. That is why we have a well-established, clear and robust expenses policy that is regularly reviewed and assessed to ensure it meets our requirements and, just as importantly, stands up to scrutiny.

Yet the stark truth is that, as a multi-million pound organisation with a burgeoning global reputation, we look beyond our own borders when developing new, exciting and crucial partnerships and networks that will help us in our aspiration to be a Global 100 University. This means that our staff will often have to undertake journeys not just locally between our campuses in Exeter and Cornwall but nationally and internationally, in order to cultivate and secure these new opportunities. For example, some meetings must take place in London due to the nature of the discussions and those involved – this requires a 400-mile round-trip. It is not ideal, but it is necessary.

“Staff will often have to undertake journeys not just locally but nationally and internationally”

And to do this will incur some costs. So it is entirely right that these are met by the University, not the individuals who act as our ambassadors when undertaking these journeys. Furthermore, I can assure you that every claim is comprehensively checked, to ensure that our strict policy is adhered to each and every time.

I would like to leave with this thought. Every single journey, meeting or conference helps strengthen Exeter’s position as a first-class University. That is important to us, of course. It is also important to the South West, that benefits from around £600 million into its economy because of the University. But perhaps most importantly, it matters to you. Your degree from Exeter gives you outstanding opportunities as you start your careers. By ensuring the University remains amongst the very best worldwide, that will continue to be the case throughout the working lives of you, and the generations of students to come.


Sarah Turnvill, Chair of Council

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