Universities UK is a misnomer (Leader, THES , December 1). Like its predecessor, the vice-chancellors committee remains, as John Griffith observed in 1989, no more than a collection of individuals having common interests, with no more authority to represent university opinion or policy than has any individual vice-chancellor.
Griffith emphasised that any important views to the outside world would need the approval of the university community. The vice-chancellors were, in 1930, authorised by their universities to constitute a committee for purposes of mutual consideration. Their committee has no power to subordinate the universities to itself as the new title implies.
Vice-chancellors are answerable to their governing bodies. They are regularly in conflict with staff. If they adhere to London Economics proposals, they will be more at odds with students and staff over top-up fees. As Peter Knight and others before him pointed out, rather than influencing government policy, the vice-chancellors consistently bow to it.
The LE report smacks of ideological collusion between business consultants and a government reluctant to tax at source, leaving the vice-chancellors pawns in the game.
Patrick Brady and Geraldine Thorpe
London Guildhall University