As Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, so eloquently put it on BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions? recently: if Universities UK had replaced the word “gender” with “race”, it would never have even considered segregation (“As it is in Heaven”, Opinion, 19/26 December 2013).
UUK would not have tried to argue that because an external speaker insisted that only black students could sit together, this should be allowed on spurious human rights grounds, so why on earth did it try to argue this in terms of gender?
The body pandered to extremists and misogynists who try to get away with this sort of thing under the guise of “religious beliefs”. The idea that the taxpayer should have to fund a test case to clarify the law is ridiculous. If misogynist extremists want to take the issue to court, let them do it and let them pay for it. And let it be thrown out.
Nicola Dandridge’s role as chief executive is not just to take advice from well-paid QCs, but to heed such guidance as one of many inputs and then act in the interests of all students at UK universities (male and female) and make the correct judgement call (as David Cameron ultimately did).
A quick look at UUK’s annual accounts (last filed for 31 July 2012) shows that Dandridge probably takes home around £130,000 a year; that UUK employs 78 staff (to do what?); and that the body costs subscribing universities around £5.2 million a year. The average university is expected to pay an annual sub of around £67,000.
UUK’s total income for 2012 was a staggering £9.2 million, made up of subscriptions and grants. What a waste of taxpayers’ money.
I have written to each member of the UUK board in recent days asking them to justify the body’s stance: not one has replied. And all the vice-chancellors stayed quiet throughout the segregation furore: not one has spoken out. Their shameful silence suggests that UUK is simply a trade union/lobbying organisation on their behalf.
The organisation has proved it is not fit for purpose, and it deserves a vote of no confidence from students. I thought the idea behind the higher education reforms was to put students at the heart of the system, not vice-chancellors and misogynists.
The Student Relaunch Programme