From frying pan INTO fire

November 15, 2012

Regarding "INTO the deep for debt-hit 'dolphin'?" (News, 8 November): we would like to clarify a few points. First, the University of Gloucestershire's finances are improving, due in the main to sterling work by Paul Hartley, its previous vice-chancellor, and it is on track to make an operating profit of around £3 million for 2012-13. Second, its ratio of profit to debt (gearing) is much improved, as acknowledged by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

The future of the university depends, among other things, on wise financial investment. We do not believe a partnership with private company INTO is a wise move. As far as the University and College Union can establish, there has been no real modelling of alternatives with considerably less risk attached. As much as £10 million is being risked by the university in the partnership, but very little by INTO.

Furthermore, there has been a panic reaction by Gloucestershire's senior management to what was inevitably going to be a difficult year for most universities following the introduction of the higher fees regime.

Attempting to secure teaching on the cheap may eventually turn a profit but at what price? Seeking less qualified and experienced staff who will be paid less with poorer pension arrangements, yet expected to work longer hours with no time for research-informed teaching, is not the way to attract students or improve the institution's standing.

Gloucestershire's own accountants, Grant Thornton, conclude that there is no evidence from comparative joint ventures of the promised increases in student numbers.

Our members have unanimously rejected the INTO plan. Accordingly, the UCU has contacted the vice-chancellor requesting that he seek the views of all staff on the matter and has written to the university council asking it to think again.

University and College Union branch, University of Gloucestershire

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