Staff at The Open University have “overwhelmingly” backed a motion of no confidence in the vice-chancellor, Peter Horrocks.
Members of the institution’s branch of the University and College Union said that Mr Horrocks’ position had become “untenable” after he claimed that the institution’s distance-learning model had allowed academics “to get away with not being teachers for decades”.
The vice-chancellor, who has since apologised for his “careless language”, was already under fire over plans to cut courses and jobs as part of a restructuring project that aims to save £100 million from the institution’s £420 million annual budget. He then sparked further ire by describing this as “reprioritising” in an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
The no-confidence motion called on Mr Horrocks to step down as soon as possible to “avoid damage to the public image of the OU”.
“On the basis of recent events, he has shown that he does not understand the university’s teaching model, nor the importance of the OU’s research base,” the motion said.
The emergency branch meeting also passed a motion calling for the withdrawal of the threat of hundreds of redundancies and another calling for the local branch to consult members about possible industrial action.
It comes just days before a specially convened meeting of the university council on 9 April.
“Staff have made it quite clear what they think about the vice-chancellor’s recent behaviour,” said UCU regional official Lydia Richards. “The Open University is a magnificent institution, and it needs someone at the helm who understands its unique position and who will talk up its brilliant staff.
“It’s time for a change at the top and time for a halt to damaging cuts that would destroy the Open University as we know it. We hope for the future of the Open University that council members will recommend a change at the top when they meet on Monday afternoon.”
An OU spokesman said: “We are midway through an ambitious programme to transform the way we teach and support our students so that they have the best preparation for the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
“The plans have sparked a lively internal debate as well as a degree of concern. We can confirm that these concerns will be discussed more thoroughly at a special meeting of the university council and later at the OU’s academic governing body, the senate.”