Highbury College principal clocked up £5,000 phone and data bill including £34 charge for three-second Saudia Arabia call

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A COLLEGE principal spent £34 on a three-second phone call while abroad, her £5,000 phone and data bill obtained by The News reveals.

Highbury College chief executive Stella Mbubaegbu racked up the total bill on her phone and iPad over four years on trips to Saudia Arabia and Nigeria - with calls made to Italy, Ireland, Portugal and the Netherlands.

Stella Mbubaegbu, principal of Highbury College. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Stella Mbubaegbu, principal of Highbury College. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

Expenses claim reveal her travel to Saudi - where the college runs Jeddah College - and to Nigeria, where the institution is battling to recoup £1.4m from a state after a scheme in the country went awry. 

A Highbury College spokeswoman insisted international work brought in £1m in 2017/18 and costs are closely monitored with contracts regularly reviewed. 

Data supplied by the college shows a three-second phone call on September 18 last year in Saudi Arabia cost the college £34.

Last week the college axed its Sixth Form with 13 jobs at risk partly blaming ‘financial constraints’ from funding cuts from central government, although spending in recent years has gone down.

READ MORE: College battles to clawback £1.4m from Nigerian state

On a single day the principal clocked up a £512 bill on calls and data on in America through repeated £16-19 bills for around 5MB of data 26 times in September 2017.

High cost calls in Nigeria and Saudia Arabia

Other high costs include a three-second £25.95 call on Nigeria Mobile on December 16, 2017; a £23.85 two-second call in Saudia Arabia on August 30, 2017; a £23.15 two-second call to Saudi Arabia Mobile on July 18 last year; and a £20.35 two-second call to Nigeria Mobile on October 9 in 2017.

A one-second call in January 19 this year in Canada cost £2.60.

Expenses claims for taxi fares in New Orleans and Orlando in America, Sao Paulo Brazil, Hong Kong, Rotterdam and Stuttgart in the Netherlands, all give an insight into the principal’s international business travel to conferences and meetings dating back to 2014.

READ MORE: Sixth Form axed at Highbury College with 13 jobs at risk

Ms Mbubaegbu claimed for two £525 flight tickets to Saudi, for her and a colleague in October 2017.

These are the only flights claimed on expenses according to the data supplied by the Cosham institution.

‘Taxpayers will be disappointed’

John O'Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: ‘Ofsted has reported that Highbury College requires improvement, and so taxpayers and parents will be disappointed that money appears to be being wasted on phone calls in Saudi Arabia rather than on improving standards.’

‘Government has cut funding by more than 30 per cent’

Yesterday a college spokeswoman said: ‘Over the last decade, the further education sector has received a real-term cut in income from government funded training of more than 30 per cent.

‘To counteract this reduction in funding and safeguard the excellent services and teaching that students can access, colleges have been encouraged by the government to seek out new markets and business opportunities, both in the UK and internationally.

‘Highbury College’s international work has been successful in achieving that goal, earning more than £1m from such activities in 2017/18 alone. The income has supported the local student experience here in Portsmouth and effectively subsidised the underfunding from the government.

‘It is inevitable that costs will be incurred to develop new business by staff at the college, but these costs are closely monitored and Highbury College reviews all contracts regularly to ensure our activities achieve value for money.’