Checking in for some recession symbolism

IT’S a big oh well done to University College London provost Professor Malcolm Grant, who this week took a ten percent salary cut to his reported £303,000 pay package.

“My action today is part of doing our bit and to symbolise our determination to come through a deep recession without sacrificing our reputation for high quality research,” he explained.

Yup – but will MG take the same slimming approach to where he stays on his many important business trips? Way back – Feburary 2008 – I reported in the Camden New Journal how he stayed at some of the world’s finest hotels, with the university largely picking up the £62k bill  on expenses, over five years.

A quick follow up Freedom of Information request returned this week shows Professor Grant in recent months has still been booked (by an aide?) into the odd five star hotel or two – like the gorgeous-looking Le Royal Meridien in Abu Dhabi.

Maybe in the new era of recession symbolisation whatchamacallit at UCL, there is still the possibility that its top staff may ditch the hotels with fancy views and demand a bed and breakfast guesthouse and a soggy fried bread breakfast instead? I know a good one off the seafront in Cromer if they’ve ever got a conference on in East Anglia.

FOI Request results: Foreign hotel expenditure

Date * Hotel name * Location * Nights booked * Total cost * Purpose

24-Mar-09 * Hilton Hotel * New York * 3 * not available * Alumni meeting and US UCL Campaign Board

What the hotel’s website says: ‘Recently completed a $148 million redesign – providing the ultimate Manhattan experience in comfort and style.’

21-Nov-09 * Grand Hotel Karel V * Utrecht * 1 * € 179  *Rectors Assembly, League of European Research Universities

What the hotel’s website says: ‘Magnifiek 5* – this medieval monastery was carefully transformed into a luxurious hotel and convention site.’

14-Feb-10 * Le Royal Meridien * Abu Dhabi * 1 * AED 1000 UKTI * delegation with Lord Mandelson

What the website says: ‘Travellers have long considered this graceful hotel a jewel in the heart of the Middle East.’

15-Feb-10 * Four Seasons Hotel * Doha * 1  *QR 1,100 * UKTI delegation with Lord Mandelson

What the website says: ‘Gazing over the Arabian Gulf, with its own private beach and a marina curved at its feet,Four Seasons is a traveller’s haven fashioned to the finest international standards. It is the centrepiece of Doha’s outstanding waterfront landmark.’

24-Apr-10 * Conrad Hotel Hong Kong 1 HK 2,050 University Grants Committee

What the website says: ‘Recognized as one of the world’s finest business hotels, the Conrad Hong Kong, China hotel offers corporate and leisure travellers a superb location and a unique sense of style.’

28-Apr-10 * Hilton Hotel * Adelaide, Australia * 1 * AUD 280 * Opening of UCL South Australia campus

What the website says: ‘Enjoy your stay in this contemporary 36m²/387sq.ft room with separate working and seating areas. Catch up on work at the large desk, surf the web with high-speed internet access or entertain yourself with the 21-inch TV. Some rooms have city and mountain views.’

08-May-10 * Hotel Ambassador Zurich * 1 * CHF 360.00 * Rectors Assembly, League of European Research Universities

What the website says: ‘The exciting, exquisite mixture of culture, entertainment and business that surrounds the Hotel Ambassador is emulated in its architecture, hospitality and range of facilities. Despite extensive renovation, the diva among Zurich’s hotels has not lost any of its original beauty or charm.’

UCL points out that it has ‘benefited hugely’ from Prof Grant representing the university abroad. It is now one of the best ranked in the world.

3 Comments on Checking in for some recession symbolism

  1. There’s a good B&B down here on the south coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula too.
    50 miles south of Adelaide. Ideal for academics wanting a bit of peace and quiet for cerebral activities and not far from some of the best wineries and restaurants in South Australia.

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  2. Local Tory // June 4, 2010 at 9:41 am //

    Boring.

    So, you expect the head of a world class institution to represent his organisation overseas while staying in a fleapit in the red light district?

    Yes, that would certainly be the way to show the global HE market that UCL is a serious player.

    Half of these hotels weren’t even chosen by UCL anyway.

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    • Richard Osley // June 4, 2010 at 12:49 pm //

      Thanks for your contribution ‘Local Tory’ – although given you are a fairly regular commenter on these pages, I’m sad that you are regularly punishing yourself by reading all of these ‘boring’ posts so often.

      I don’t expect anybody to stay in ‘a fleapit in the red light district’. Not sure where I said that. And of course, we don’t know who booked the hotels or how widely their were used. It is just a simple observation about one area of expense in a week when Prof Grant and UCL have talked about costs and recession.

      It is interesting, however, to look at the guidance of other institutions which receive public money over booking hotel accommodation on business trips.

      The London Assembly for instance publishes this as its guidance:
      ‘The principle of securing value for money and best use of public funds should always be observed and lower priced suitable accommodation should be used whenever possible…In most circumstances, accommodation of 3-star standard is expected to be acceptable.’

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