University College Cork racks up €1.8m travel bill in 20 months

University College Cork racks up €1.8m travel bill in 20 months
The Quad at UCC.Pic: Gavin Browne

University College Cork has spent more than €1.8m on travel expenses and invoices in the past 20 months, The Echo can reveal.

Information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that the university received almost 9,000 expense claims for travel-related costs between January 2018 and August of this year, at a total cost of over €450,000.

UCC also received over 6,000 invoices during this time, which it paid, resulting in a cost of almost €1.4m.

The invoices and expense claims included more than 3,000 flights, around 2,500 taxi journeys, more than 1,000 ferry trips, and 5,000 excursions that included rail travel.

Staff and students travelled far and wide for various reasons including recruitment, conferences, seminars, and more, to locations across Ireland, Europe, and further afield, including Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai, Shanghai, Santiago, Nashville, and Vancouver.

Almost 200 travel expense claims and invoices resulted in spends of more than €1,000 but less than €2,000, according to the figures.

Just over 50 trips cost more than €2,000, while 22 cost more than €3,000, there were nine over €4,000, five over €5,000, and two that cost in excess of €6,000.

One trip to Singapore for an alumni event cost the university almost €7,000.

Another journey to Sydney for a training study visit cost UCC around €5,900, while a trip to Chengdu, the capital of southwestern China’s Sichuan province, came in at just over €6,000. 

As well as that, trips to Nashville, Lyon, and a few to Singapore and Shanghai cost more than €3,000 each, while journeys to Santiago and Beijing cost more than €4,000.

The figures also revealed that UCC spent around €1,500 on flight upgrades.

These figures come just weeks after the Irish Times revealed UCC spent €96,978 on business class and premium flights last year, including that fare to Singapore which cost €6,898.

It revealed Ireland’s publicly-funded universities spent about €1.5m last year flying academics around the world.

The figures obtained by The Echo, meanwhile, also revealed someone from the university spent €230 on a taxi — which was around the same cost as another staff member’s trip to Edinburgh and back again. It does not say where this taxi travelled to or from.

The international office was among the UCC departments that incurred the most costs in terms of travel expenses and invoices.

The department ended up costing UCC around €67,000 in the 20-month period.

Travel expenses and invoices for UCC’s diploma in military special operations forces medical care cost more than €80,000.

Meanwhile, travel conducted as part of a project focussing on non-EU student recruitment resulted in costs of around €44,000.

The Cork University Business School incurred travel costs of around €36,000, while UCC’s computer science course sought expenses and invoice payments of around €32,000.

The food business and development department racked up travel costs of around €48,000 during the 20-month period; the UCC Confucius Institute, which offers Chinese courses for BA and MA students, incurred travel costs of around €30,000; and the university paid €33,000 for travel expenses sought by the library administration department.

Meanwhile, the UCC president’s office incurred travel costs of around €16,000 over the past 20 months or so, the figures revealed. This included a trip to Singapore for a conference which cost the university more than €5,000.

The office of the deputy president and registrar saw travel costs totalling around €23,000 over the past year and eight months.

UCC also spent almost €40,000 on travel expenses for its School of Law and more than €25,000 on geography field trips.

Staff and students travelled to various locations across the globe for a myriad of reasons, according to the information provided to The Echo. Student recruitment campaigns were chief among the reasons for travelling.

UCC undertook these campaigns in China, Mexico City, India, and elsewhere.

The university also sent people to build partnerships in countries across Asia and South America, including one such journey to Rio de Janeiro. Delegates from UCC also attended events in China hosted by the Irish China Business Association and a Microsoft campus connections summit in London.

A spokesperson from UCC said: “To recruit international students to study and live in Cork, to ensure excellence and impact in UCC’s research and teaching, and to engage alumni, necessitates the need for travel.

“Clear policies for staff on the use of travel exist and where possible, other means of conducting work is encouraged.” 

The Echo revealed last month that Cork Institute of Technology spent more than €1.3m on travel for staff members in 2018. 

It spent over €700,000 on 4,300 trips across Ireland, with Dublin the most popular destination, along with almost €600,000 on foreign travel across 577 trips.

Information provided by the institute, again under the Freedom of Information Act, showed that staff travelled to places like Paris, Tokyo, Berlin, the US, Tel Aviv, and more.

Around 1,170 staff took almost 5,000 trips between them — a total of 13,838 days in just one year.

This all added up to a cost of €1,304,855.04.

Thirteen members of CIT staff spent more than €10,000 on trips throughout the year, including one who spent more than €18,000.

These 13 staff members accounted for 12% of the total €1.3m spend.

A spokesperson for CIT said: “CIT had approximately 1,200 individual staff travelling during the year and the cost is less than 1% of total annual expenditure.

“CIT have very strong controls and overview of travel expenditure and the spend is reflective of the high level of engagement of CIT staff in research and collaborative projects both domestic and foreign.”

CIT has since stressed that many of its staff members travel to expand the college’s footprint in important attempts to recruit students from far and wide as well as experienced staff.

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