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  • Writer's pictureThe Gaudie

Fury as thousands spent on Principal's residence- despite hosting just seven events in 2023

Value for money questioned as University spends more than £119,000 on upkeep bills since 2019.

By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco

Chanonry Lodge, pictured in 2019. Photo: Rhona Craw

Nestled in historic Old Aberdeen, Chanonry Lodge has been the official residence of University principals for more than a century.

However, despite rising upkeep costs, just seven official events were held at the mansion (valued at one million pounds) all of last year a Gaudie investigation has revealed. 

Meanwhile, the University has spent more than £119,000 on upkeep and utilities over the last five years.

Amidst a growing financial crisis that has seen the University rack up a £15 million deficit, questions have been raised over the property's value for money.

Cost of maintaining official residence up 200% since 2019

Running costs for Chanonry Lodge have tripled since 2019, reaching a five year high of £36,000 in 2023.

Found on one of Aberdeen's most prestigious streets, the lodge includes public rooms and private accommodation for Principal George Boyne and his family, as well as a large garden.

Cleaning and maintenance for the Category B listed building cost upwards of £17,400 last year, compared to just £4,100 the year before.

And the University was hit with a bill of £11,195 for unspecified “furnishings” in 2022.

While some might suggest that a less expensive home would be adequate for Principal Boyne, University bosses have insisted that the industry veteran's presence at the lodge is “essential for the fulfilment of his duties.”

Principal Boyne contributes £1000 per month toward the upkeep of the residence- out of his yearly salary of £296,000.

Official events have decreased since end of pandemic

Despite the rising costs, the number of functions hosted at Chanonry Lodge decreased in 2023, a Freedom of Information request has revealed. 

Just seven official functions were held at the residence last year; compared to 11 in 2022,

and 23 in 2019. 

The events can be seen below:

  • 17 January- Dinner (three in attendance, not catered)

  • 28 February- Lunch Reception (10 in attendance, catered)

  • 5 June- Friends of Anchor Stewardship Event (12 in attendance, catered)

  • 22 June- UMG Social Gathering (43 in attendance, catered)

  • 17 August- Principal’s Summer Reception (91 in attendance, catered)

  • 18 September- Pre-Strategy Day Dinner (nine in attendance, catered)

  • 20 September- Reception for Staff Promotions (51 in attendance, catered)

University: Decreasing number of functions not a problem

Asked if the number of events hosted had met the University's expectations, a spokesperson noted: "Functions are hosted as and when the need arises to further University aspirations."

The spokesperson told The Gaudie that increased costs were a result of rising utilities, maintenance and staff costs.

They added: "There has been no change to the cleaning schedule for the building in the last five years except that cleaning services were suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Expenditure on maintenance and furniture reflects the periodic maintenance and updating in the public rooms only."

Students hit out at “elaborate, subsidised housing”

Speaking to The Gaudie, several students reacted negatively to our report, criticising management for disordered "priorities."

A third year history and politics student told us:

“It is a horrible indictment on the University, and a insult to staff and students that Professor Boyne should stay practically rent free in an elaborate mansion.

"It is about time that the University served its community, and not the top brass. The University's current financial position has been worsened by poor management- and that seems to be rewarded with elaborate, subsidised housing."

A German and French student added: “As a modern languages student, this next revelation in SMT’s litany of complete and unmitigated PR disasters hardly comes as a surprise. Nevertheless, it is still shocking.

"This is just another example of SMT’s utter financial incompetence. Frankly, it is as disgusting as not a single member of SMT being willing to take a pay cut."

And a former academic senator noted:

"While [the Principal] is happy to spend enormous amounts of money on superfluous things such as new branding, graduations at the P and J and remodelling his own home to the value of an entire salary, he seems to be less preoccupied about saving the jobs of his staff.”

Similar furore was levelled at University of Edinburgh Principal Peter Mathieson last year, after an investigation by The Scotsman found he spent thousands on a new iron balcony and eucalyptus trees for his £1.7 million townhouse.

What does the Union have to say? 

Asked to comment on our findings, a Aberdeen UCU spokesperson said: “Aberdeen is an ancient university, and it is true that in the 17th and 18th centuries comfortable or even palatial housing was provided to leading Regis Professors as a mark of their status. However back then these individuals likely did not receive a cash income and were expected to serve out of their own sense of duty and interest.  

“Housing costs and catering costs of this scale are incommensurate with managerial salaries and cash bonuses which are through the roof – often twenty times greater than the salaries of the lowest paid teaching assistant or lecturer.  The Principal can more than afford to rent his dwelling.”

The investigation comes as the local branch of trade union UCU has found itself at odds with senior management once again, calling on its members to engage in strike action over threatened redundancies in the modern language department.

A University spokesperson confirmed that "potential cost savings" for the property would be explored as part of an institution-wide review.


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