The University’s Mightiest Use Tax Money on Top Restaurants

The University’s Mightiest Use Tax Money on Top Restaurants

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@Viktor Drangnell-Ek
In total 327 000 SEK was the final bill when Lund University leaders went on a three-day inspirational trip to England. Illustration: Cecilia Hansson.

In total 327 000 SEK was the final bill when Lund University leaders went on a three-day inspirational trip to England. Meetings were interspersed with luxury hotels, top restaurants and liberal taxi trips. According to tradition, a similar trip will be arranged this spring. 

A black car with a Taxi Skåne logotype leaves Paradisgatan 2 in Lund. It is 12:02 on Tuesday, 25 September 2012. In the car are the Lund University Chief of Protocol, the pro Vice-Chancellor, two Deans and the two members of Lus’ Presiding Committee. At 15:50 they reach Heathrow in London. They are not the only ones taking a taxi to Copenhagen that day. Within the same day, an additional 13 people go to Kastrup Airport – most of them in taxis, some by train – to connect to the trip called the Dean journey.

A journey for the mightiest
It is the most influential people at Lund University going away. In total 19 persons: The Vice-Chancellor’s Management Council, Deans and Lus. The purpose is to study how the Universities in Oxford, Cambridge and London work with education, research and innovation. Most of them stay for three nights, some for four nights, with three business days. When they get back to Copenhagen on 28 and 29 September they have spent more than 327 000 SEK. The trip was financed solely by state funds, taxpayer’s money.
“Journeys are considered to be exceptional occasions as they are carried out every three years, one for each new dean period. The purpose of the trip to England was training for the Deans and the Management Council”, says the Lund University Chief of Protocol, Carin Brenner, who was responsible for the schedule and the reservations.

Dinners at top restaurants
She says the trip partly was about common learning, partly about getting the opportunity to meet with their English counterparts. But Carin Brenner also says that there are no specific regulations stating that the trips must be done. They are rather a tradition that each new Vice-Chancellor and new Deans decide about. Once in England, meetings, conferences and guided tours characterize the majority of the working hours. But business will alternate with pleasure. In a separate room at the world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant a three-course meal with two glasses of wine were ingested.
The day after, they have a welcome drink, followed by a new three-course dinner and two glasses of wine on the private rented boat Serafina II. During the boat trip, the participants are offered a guided tour along the Thames. Day three continues with dinner at celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Jamie’s Italian. Wine package, cold cuts, cheeses and grilled vegetables. Bull steak with prosciutto and side order. Amaretto- and raspberry pie with vanilla ice cream as a dessert. Before the evening is over, they have settled in the famous auditorium Cambridge Corn Exchange to watch the concert Handel’s Royal Music.

Per Eriksson, Vice-Chancellor at Lund University. Photo: Archive.
Per Eriksson, Vice-Chancellor at Lund University.
Photo: Archive.

Think the cost is reasonable
According to Carin Brenner, the trip is tailored by the wishes of the Vice Chancellor’s Management Council and the Deans. She says it is not her job to do economic priorities and that the question of how much such a trip may cost must be addressed to the Vice-Chancellor Per Eriksson, who ordered it.
“But I think it’s a reasonable cost for 19 people during three days as this trip only occurs every three years”, she says.
Neither can Per Eriksson see that money is wasted in an irresponsible manner, but clarifies that he must first review the material to get an overall picture.
“I did not interfere in the planning of the trip, from what I recall today. I assume that everything was handled with good judgment until the contrary is proved”, says Per Eriksson, adding that he knows he’s not seen any extravagances on this kind of trips.
Per Eriksson says that officials sometimes come and ask him about his views, but it did not happen in this case.
“In the Management Council we discussed who we wanted to meet, but the arrangement was then held together by Carin Brenner and some people around her”, he says. 

Taxi trips to Kastrup Airport
He does not think that it is remarkable that many chose to take a taxi to and from Kastrup Airport. This despite the fact that Carin Brenner invited and gave suggestions for matching rail travel for all travelers before the trip. The Vice-Chancellor Per Eriksson himself took a private taxi to Kastrup Airport for 1074 SEK.
“It can be cumbersome to have to get to the center with your bags by public transport”, he says, and adds “the uncertainty that exists with public relations makes taxi trips well justified”.
Per Eriksson says that he has never received any feedback on his taxi trips.
“It is the first time I’ve ever been asked why I would have taken a taxi”, he says.
After the Dean journey in 2012, there was never any evaluation. Of the invoice specifications and trip claims that have been supplied only part have been detailed. This despite the fact that the 327,000 SEK were exclusively financed by taxes. What participants have got out of the trip are surplus value. Per Eriksson believes that it is difficult to come up with specific summaries of what the participants learned.
“I think it is naive to ask for concrete results. The evaluation consists of the actual experience and the lessons learned”, says Per Eriksson.
Carin Brenner says that she and the Management Council talked about what was good and not so good with the trip. However, she also states that she cannot say what concrete results that came out of it, because she was not responsible for either the Vice-Chancellor’s Management Team or Management Council.
“But none of the Deans have subsequently said that the trip was a waste of time”, she says.

Traditional trip
Even Lus’ President at the time, Tora Törnquist, was pleased with the trip. She has not seen any formal evaluation, but insists that the trip was discussed and used as an example in subsequent meetings.
“The primary purpose of the trip was to weld together the Management Council and create cohesion. But of course also to share experiences and meet with our counterparts. The Dean journeys are made ​​in accordance with the tradition every three-years”.
This would mean that it is time again this spring. Who will, in that case, be chosen to join, what it will cost and what purpose it will have is unclear.
“There are no laws or regulations that says we have to go. The new Vice-Chancellor and the Deans must decide if they want to continue with Dean journeys”, says Carin Brenner.

Dean journey

  • Is a trip traditionally made every three-years.
  • Joining the are the Vice-Chancellor, pro Vice-Chancellor, vice rectors, Lus, Presiding Committee, the University Deans, and heads of the faculties.
  • Approximately 327,000 SEK of government funds were spent on the trip in 2012
  • No evaluation has been done and no results have been reported so far.

Text: Viktor Drangnell-Ek
Translation: Lars Jansson
First published at lundagard.se

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