Not everyone’s on board

March 26, 2015

It has been just over five years since Sir David Melville’s report on London Metropolitan University criticised an earlier board of governors (and senior executives) for failing to hold a previous vice-chancellor to account. Staff at the university are now concerned that history may be repeating. The plan to cut at least 10 per cent of London Met’s workforce (“London Met staff on tenterhooks over plan to cut 10% of workforce”, News, 19 March) was made not by the full board of governors but by the Finance and Resources Committee, a body of just five governors including the vice-chancellor that requires only three members for meetings to be quorate. That such a small group could make a decision with such huge consequences is horrifying.

Vice-chancellor John Raftery says that he wants to be “transparent and honest” about the university’s situation. If he means this, then why is the University and College Union being denied access to the data on student-staff ratios and costs that, we are told, form the basis for the cuts? We asked for these data on 19 February, 12 March, 18 March and 20 March, but have not been provided with the figures. As the full board of governors is, at the time of writing, due to meet on 23 March, we have concluded that we have been deliberately denied the data in an attempt to hinder any representations that we might have wished to make to the governors. If we are correct, then the withholding of data is non-transparent and dishonest.

In a recent strategic plan consultation, most staff indicated a continuing commitment to our widening access mission, to research activity and to remaining in at least two of our three current locations. The implications of the current cuts are to seriously threaten each of those commitments favoured by staff. Staff also supported a gradual attempt to grow the university, without management taking the kinds of risks that have proved so damaging in the past. Now a slash-and-burn policy is being imposed on us. Previous management decisions have left London Met facing big challenges, but we are deeply suspicious that Raftery is concocting a fabricated emergency, on the basis of dubious data that he delays sharing with us, to undermine the results of his strategic plan consultation that presumably did not deliver him the opinions that he was hoping for.

Mark Campbell, chair
Cliff Snaith, secretary
David Hardman, health and safety officer
London Metropolitan University UCU

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