Speaking at the Association of University Administrators annual conference in Edinburgh on 25 March, Christopher Sarchet told a workshop that if an institution consults on a decision, everyone puts forward their view but it may be impossible to accommodate them.
A university has to be prepared to say “we hear what you’re saying, but actually, for the good of the institution or whatever other reason we’re going to do this”, he said.
One audience member said that there was a mismatch between the common understanding of consultation, which involved a decision being altered following feedback, and the way universities used it, which amounted to saying “we want to keep you in the loop, but we’re not revisiting the decision”.
For this academic year, London Met has cut the number of courses it offers by two thirds and switched to a year-long, 30-week module system.
“The issue within London Met at the moment…is that we’ve used a consultative process and a lot of people are saying ‘well, you haven’t really listened’,” Dr Sarchet, who is programme manager at the post-92 institution.
“We are listening, but for the good of the institution we’re going to have to do this [make the changes],” he added.
During consultations, it was often difficult to decide how much weight to give, for example, mainly negative responses that came from only 10 per cent of the staff.
“There are all sorts of issues around pressure, peer pressure on people [to respond in a certain way],” he said.