Bath university students angry at £16,000 portrait of vice-chancellor Glynis Breakwell (The Times)
The oil painting of Dame Glynis Breakwell and its accompanying plaque have been mysteriously removed from alongside the paintings of other former vice-chancellors, according to the student magazine Bath Time.
Dame Glynis, 66, was the highest paid vice-chancellor in Britain. She resigned last August after a lengthy dispute and accusations of excessive pay from students and staff.
The Earl of Wessex unveiled the painting on February 25. A freedom of information request sent to the university by the student magazine disclosed that the work and its frame cost £16,398. The plaque labelling the painting cost the university an extra £462, and the unveiling event cost £750, the same request found.
Eve Alcock, president of Bath Students’ Union, said: “In a climate where we’re lobbying for more money for mental health and wellbeing initiatives or bursaries and financial support, this news comes as a huge insult to the students. It highlights just how much governance reform was needed, because this was signed off between a small group of people with no check or balance. When you start to think about what sorts of things more than £16,000 could pay for to benefit students and their university experience, it is frustrating that the money was used on this.”
He declined to comment on the controversy last night. He shared a photograph of himself standing next to the Earl of Wessex and the portrait on his Facebook account. In a comment, since deleted, he wrote: “Who’s that unveiling my portrait of Dame Glynis Breakwell? It’s only HRH Prince Edward!! I had a great time at the unveiling in Bath on Monday. I sat next to Edward during lunch — he’s a very friendly man.”
The home occupied by Dame Glynis for more than 15 years has been put up for sale by Bath University for nearly £3 million. Proceeds from the sale of the five-bedroom house will be used to renovate a campus property to provide guest accommodation and host events.
Dame Glynis stepped down on August 31, last year. She had been granted a sabbatical on full pay before retiring last month. The university disclosed that it would write off the interest-free loan for her £31,000 car, which she was allowed to keep.
The university said: “Portraits have been commissioned for all previous vice-chancellors, including the most recent, to mark their contribution to the university. A procurement process for the painting was conducted and authorised by the university secretary and previous chair of council.” Asked whether the portrait had been removed a spokesman refused to comment.
The university has appointed Ian White as the vice-chancellor on a salary of £266,000, more than £200,000 less than his predecessor.
Dame Glynis was a member of the remuneration committee that since 2011 had increased her pay by almost £200,000 in five years.
The row initially erupted after a freedom of information request by the Bath Chronicle. The decision to raise her pay by £50,000 in 2016 caused dismay among students at Bath.
The increase made her the highest paid vice-chancellor in Britain. She sparked further outrage after it was revealed that she claimed expenses for items including biscuits worth £2.
Hundreds of students protested against her salary by throwing bourbon cream biscuits, fig rolls and all-butter shortbreads during a campus march in 2017. One of the university’s advisory bodies told it to dismiss Dame Glynis immediately in January last year.
The university’s court, a 200-strong body, passed a motion expressing no confidence in Dame Glynis, the chairman of the university’s council and the entire remuneration committee.