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Kent Eye ferris wheel cost university £54,800

The Kent Eye ferris wheel at University of Kent
The Kent Eye ferris wheel at University of Kent

The giant ferris wheel which formed a distinctive part of the city’s skyline at the University of Kent cost £54,800 for a three-and-a-half week run. The £13,700 per week rent and operating costs are revealed in a freedom of information request submitted on behalf of students. College authorities have also admitted that the Kent Eye will eventually have set them back £260,300 when is makes a return next summer. Yet it remains unclear whether the university has so far recouped the costs of the wheel from ticket sales.

The campus attraction, which had afforded unparalleled views of Canterbury Cathedral and the city centre, had been set upon the meadow between the Eliot and Rutherford colleges. Offering rides at £5, the university had had the wheel in place from September 24 to October 19 as part of its 50th anniversary programme. Mature Students Officer Dave Cocozza submitted an FOI request to the university seeking clarification on the cost of the wheel. The university has revealed that the attraction cost £13,700 per week, including £8,000 for the structure and £5,700 for running costs including security. The breakdown of costs is highlighted in InQuire, the university’s newspaper.

“The university allocated a budget of £350,000 for its 50th anniversary programme from its total income of over £200m – representing less than 0.2% of the total,”

a university spokesman told InQuire.

“It is not possible to distinguish one source of income from another within this overall budget.”

College authorities were keen to emphasise that the cost of the wheel was being offset by ticket sales. Ticket revenue was going towards the Kent Opportunity Fund which supports bursaries and scholarships for students experiencing financial hardship, the university said.

“All income in excess of costs, minus the £350k budget, will go to the fund,”

said the spokesman. The University told InQuire that 8,302 tickets were sold and that it expected costs to be “fully covered by the income raised, so it will therefore make a positive contribution to the Kent Opportunity Fund”. But by the university’s own figures, the wheel would have generated £41,510— leaving a shortfall of £13,290. And according to InQuire, the ticket prices had been dropped from5to4toboostsales. Daniel Hicks, a second year student, is quoted as saying:

“The way I see it, the University is using our tuition fees to pay for a frankly unnecessary wheel. Sounds like they could easily put that money to better use and not waste it on a ferris wheel.”

Ginny Sanderson, an English and American Literature student, adds:

“Let’s be honest, as novel as it was, the Kent Eye was rarely full. That’s probably a lot down to the pricing – if it had been cheaper it would have probably received a lot more interest. It was a fun idea, and impressive, but there is so much that money could have been spent on.”

The Kent Wheel is set to return to the Canterbury Campus from 1 July to 15 October 2015. When contacted by the Gazette, the university said it stood by its comments to InQuire.

Herne Bay Gazette, November 27th 2014

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