‘No confidence’ vote over UCL provost’s NHS role

The students’ union at University College London has passed a vote of no confidence in the provost, Malcolm Grant, after he was appointed to take charge of the NHS in England under controversial government changes.

December 3, 2011

A motion passed at a UCL Union “emergency members’ meeting” on 1 December says that “in taking up the position of NHS commissioning board chair, Malcolm Grant is complicit in the carving up of the NHS as a public service”.

The motion had previously been passed by the union’s council, which sent it on for wider approval at a members’ meeting.

It argues that Professor Grant has “a track record of actively undermining public services and public funding – including education – and has actively encouraged [tuition] fee rises behind closed doors”.

The no confidence motion, titled “Hands off the NHS, hands off our education: Malcolm Grant has got to go”, is now UCL Union’s official policy.

Luke Durigan, UCL Union’s education and campaigns officer, said it was the first time the union had passed a motion of no confidence in a provost.

But the motion will now go to an online “referendum” of students, as some were shut out of the meeting owing to limited capacity at the venue.

The union’s no confidence position could be overturned if a majority of students support Professor Grant in the referendum.

A UCL spokesman said the institution “encourages vigorous debate”.

“We don’t believe that this vote necessarily reflects majority opinion among the student body at UCL – many students were unable to get into the meeting, and UCL Union…is now in the process of organising a vote that will enable all students to express a view.”

In the vote, 160 students voted no confidence in Professor Grant, 86 confidence and 28 abstained.

Professor Grant will work as NHS commissioning board chair for two days a week and give the £63,000 annual salary to UCL, while remaining in his UCL post on a full salary.

His UCL salary, benefits and pension contributions came to £337,655 in 2010-11, according to the institution’s accounts, down from £365,131 the previous year.

The UCL Union motion says it is “inappropriate for Grant to hold the position of provost and the position of NHS commissioning board chair, and that this is inconsistent with a full-time commitment to our university”.

The college’s spokesman said that as “an institution at the forefront of UK medicine”, UCL must “lead the development and implementation of national healthcare policy”.

He added that Professor Grant’s NHS role “is part of our institution’s national commitment and warmly supported by the university’s senior management team”.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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