Lack of student input on merger

October 19, 2001

Students at the University of North London will have no elected representatives this academic year, even though the institution is about to finalise a controversial merger plan with London Guildhall University.

There are no sabbatical officers, after the university failed to hold student union elections last term. Instead, they will be elected in December, but will not take office until July. They will "be entitled to act in an unpaid, representational capacity" from January, according to an internal newsletter.

Students will have no representation on the UNL board of governors when the crucial decisions about the proposed merger are made.

In a statement, UNL said: "In the absence of a student representative on the board of governors, we have informed students about the merger via our internal newsletter and merger website, and have encouraged students to communicate with us about the merger via the website. To date we have not had one question or comment."

It continued: "We respect the opinions of our students and are looking at putting in place further mechanisms to consult students following a firm decision to go ahead with the merger."

At LGU, student union president Jamie Keers-McMahon said he was worried about UNL's students. "They haven't really got a say at the moment."

Mr Keers-McMahon was also concerned about the future of student union activities if the merger went ahead.

However, in a recent message to staff, LGU vice-chancellor Roderick Floud said: "We continue to enjoy a positive and open relationship with our students' union, and will be working with them to build a greater understanding of the opportunities, and challenges, the merger presents.

"A fully democratic and representative students' union is fundamental to a thriving university community and we actively welcome students' involvement in this important debate."

Meanwhile, a meeting of the staff unions at LGU voted overwhelmingly to oppose the merger.

In a letter to governors, Alan Lafferty, local chair of lecturers' union Natfhe, said: "In all three last published criteria by which one can judge financial health, short-term deposits, annual surplus and net current assets, UNL is in deficit... A large slice of any reorganisation money from Hefce might be swallowed up by a possible liquidity crisis at UNL."

He also raised concerns about the possibility of a dilution of LGU's commitment to the local community.

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