The University of Plymouth has spent £206,000 plus £89,600 installation costs on a giant LED video screen that is unable to show videos.
The screen measuring 30ft by 16ft is installed on the outside walls of the university’s new performing arts centre and is supposed to be an innovative way to communicate with students, staff and the winder public.
The university has, however, been banned from broadcasting any videos on the screen, as it can be seen from nearby roads and Plymouth City Council fears moving images might distract drivers.
A university spokesperson said they would use the screen to display information on university events and activities with fading in and out images instead.
The decision to buy the screen was made two years ago under Deputy Vice-Chancellor David Coslett. The University of Plymouth has admitted to having been fully aware of the restriction not to show videos at that time, but decided to purchase the screen anyway.
The University and College Union (UCU) called the expenses “shocking”. It is not the first time that the management of Plymouth University has been criticised for its expenses.
The university was criticised earlier this year for spending £95,000 on seven custom-made designer chairs that are only to be used in graduation ceremonies, and £24,000 for sending six staff members to a conference in Miami.
Vice-Chancellor Wendy Purcell has just returned to the university after being suspended in July over charges that have never been made public, but it is believed that university staff have complained about her conduct and spending.
In August, the Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) has recommended an external governance review about the university’s management.
Following these incidents, the UCU demanded more transparency on how universities spend their money. “From £150,000 on seven luxury chairs, to a £300,000 giant screen that could never work, to jollies in Miami, the one thing we have learnt is the need for greater transparency when it comes to universities’ spending,” a UCU spokesperson told The Student.
At the University of Edinburgh, the Furniture Office and the Procurement Office are responsible for furniture purchases.
Any staff member or manager planning to spend more than £5,000 needs the approval of Procurement Office for the project.
Amongst the current most expensive projects of the university, exceeding costs of £500,000, are the refurbishment of 50 George Square and the ground floor and study area in David Hume Tower.
The refurbished main library on George Square does feature several designer chairs by Dutch designer Arne Jacobsen costing around £300 each. However, they are part of the original library furniture from 1967 and have been merely refurbished.