University Principal Louise Richardson enjoys membership of one of London’s most exclusive private members’ clubs at University expense, it has recently been revealed. The Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall has an annual membership fee of almost £1,000 per year and has previously hosted renowned guests such as Charles Dickens and Winston Churchill.
The Club provides Louise Richardson with a base in London, as well as access to meeting rooms and other facilities.
Questions have arisen as to whether the use of The Athenaeum Club is money well spent. Some have criticised Richardson, who earns approximately £230,000 per year, for not paying her own way, particularly in the light of fee increases for English, Northern Irish and Welsh undergraduates at St Andrews, who now face paying up to £36,000 for a four year degree in Scotland.
Robin Parker, President of the National Union of Students (NUS), called Richardson’s use of the Club at University expense “disgraceful,” saying, “University principals are enjoying high salaries and exclusive club memberships in London whilst introducing high tuition fees for the rest-of-UK students and pleading poverty to the Scottish Government back home.”
However, Niall Scott at the University’s Press Office, considers the NUS’s stance embarrassing, claiming Athenaeum membership saves the University at least £3,000 per year on alternative London accommodation.
Scott argues that the NUS have missed the point: “The only logical conclusion is that they would prefer Scottish universities to pour public money into London market-rate accommodation than dare to accept the very reasonable economies offered by the membership of the club.”
The University of St Andrews maintains the importance of Louise Richardson’s visits to London to meet with potential donors and figureheads. Last year, she stayed in The Athenaeum Club ten times for an average of two to three days at a time.
In St Andrews student opinion on the issue was divided. Some saw the membership costs as excessive. John, a second year student at the University, believes “the money could be put towards bursaries offered to students next year when they face the £9,000 per year price hike”.
Others, however, felt differently. Lily Brodnax-Bell, an undergraduate at the University, thinks that “£1,000 in relation to the University’s budget is a very small amount for something that promotes St Andrews and probably produces revenue.”
Millie, a Medieval History student at the University also believes that, “although it does seem a lot of money at face value, [the use of the Athenaeum Club] is probably beneficial for the University as a whole”.