A RECRUITMENT drive for overseas students by Kingston college principal Arthur Cotterell, which cost pound;18,600 and took him and his wife to Taiwan, is being investigated by the Further Education Funding Council, writes Julie Read.
Mr Cotterell, who has been in charge of Kingston for the past 15 years, and his wife, spent six weeks in Taiwan, where they stayed in five-star hotels.
When Mr Cotterell first proposed the trip last year at an estimated cost of pound;25,000 to the taxpayer, college governor Rod Bromfield, an engineering lecturer at Kingston, was the only member of the 18-strong governing board to criticise it as "an exorbitant waste of college funds".
Mr Cotterell has defended the expense, saying it was cheaper to take his wife, who is Chinese, than to hire a local translator.
Vice-principal Nick Sinnamon said this week that the interpretational services of the principal's wife, Yong Yap, would have cost pound;9,000 for 17 school and college visits if they had been contracted in Taiwan. "We have already firm commitments from 36 Taiwanese students, bringing in pound;82,000 of revenue, and 20 Taiwanese principals have visited the college and the country as a result of the principal's two missions."
Laurence Hardwicke, chairman of governors, said: "The recruitment of international students was made a priority by the governing body three years ago because of declining government funding. It is part of a strategy to diversify the college's soruces of income, for which the governors are more than appreciative of the principal's willingness to take the lead."
Chris Mostyn of the Further Education Funding Council said: "All overseas trips using public funds must represent value for money." He said that if any trips did not satisfy the criteria the council would take action.
"The council has issued guidance to the sector on expense claims and overseas travel in July 1998, and again in May this year. Details of this particular case have only now been brought to our attention. We will be following this up with the college," he said.