A COLLEGE which is trying to cut lecturers’ wages by thousands of pounds has been criticised for spending £140,000 in one year on trips abroad.
The news comes just days after staff at Sunderland College went on strike over a proposed drop in salaries, following a shortfall in funding.
Bosses at the college revealed that during 2010/11 they spent £140,157 on foreign business trips.
They said the trips generated nearly £2million in income, but union officials have cast doubt over that figure.
Kath Hepburn, UCU regional vice chairman, said: “There has been a lot of money spent on international development as it was thought it could be good for the college, but I don’t think it has worked out like that at all.
“Many of the students are now struggling to get visas, so it has not provided the income that was hoped.
“A lot of money has been spent on setting something up that hasn’t really worked.
“At the same time, these cuts are undermining further education when we are in an ideal position to support people that are not currently in employment.”
The pay dispute centres on plans to cut the salaries of more than 150 lecturers and downgrade 70 per cent of the teaching staff.
Workers took to the picket lines last week to show their discontent.
College principal Angela O’Donoghue said: “Sunderland College offers an extensive programme of courses overseas, which of course means staff have to go to those countries to deliver them.
“This overseas work has generated income of £1.9million since 2010 and helps support other areas of College activity in Sunderland.
“We feel that spending £140,000 to generate £1.9 million is an impressive return on investment.
“Cuts in management roles have come about since 2010 because we have been trying to keep cuts away from the frontline – instead choosing to cut management roles and reduce the costs of management - rather than teaching staff, to minimise any impact on students.
“Because we have already pared back so much in recent years due to previous funding cuts, we had nowhere else to go this year when we were told to cut £2.2 million off our budget.
“We are in discussions with unions to look at further management cuts as well as a package of reforms to make savings on the teaching side as well.”