Trouble at the top?

January 9, 2004

So the University of Luton plans to make a further 50 lecturers redundant ("Redundancy drive aims to free up cash at Luton", THES , January 2). This means that it will have shed a total of nearly 200 academic staff since 2001. Pro vice-chancellor Tim Boatswain again blames "a competitive market". In fact, Luton's problems stem from poor management: uncollected student debt, low retention rates, inaccurate budgeting and loss-making commercial enterprises. In the wider economy, shareholders punish failure by demanding changes at the top. In post-92 universities, no such mechanism exists. Thus, managers can go on making the same mistakes, which staff pay for with their jobs. Isn't it time that this flaw in the governance system was addressed?

Nick Tiratsoo
University of Nottingham

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