Cambridge has spoken: 'Statute U' is rejected

Scholars fighting to keep the University of Cambridge as a self- governing institution have claimed victory after proposed changes to its disciplinary rules were rejected.

Opponents of the plans for "Statute U" said they would have made it much easier to sack staff and make them redundant.

At present, Cambridge officers can be sacked only for "conduct of an immoral, scandalous or disgraceful nature incompatible with the duties of the office or employment".

The Statute U proposals sought to replace this with the power to sack staff for "gross misconduct", which included a list of disciplinary offences including "unreasonable refusal to carry out a reasonable instruction" and "any other act of serious misconduct".

University administrators argued that the changes would reflect alterations in employment law and bring the institution's rules up to date with current legislation.

But a ballot of members at the Regent House, the university's governing body, rejected two options put forward by management.

In the first of last week's votes the plans were defeated by 1,119 to 419, and in the second they were voted down by 988 to 625.

Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge and a campaigner against Statute U, said that the overwhelming result would remind the university's management that it needed to carry academic opinion rather than push through edicts from above.

"We've voted by a huge margin to reject a move to managerialism," he said. "The proposals would not simply have undermined academic freedom by making it much easier for managers to sack troublesome academics: at a deeper level, they would have moved us a significant distance from being self-governing to being at the beck and call of the university's managers."

David Goode, president of the Cambridge branch of the University and College Union, claimed that the continuing failure of the university to recognise the union for collective-bargaining purposes had contributed to the defeat.

A Cambridge spokesman said: "The university has spoken."

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