UCU anger at Leeds Met's glitzy graduation

July 28, 2006

The class of 2006 at Leeds Metropolitan University this week enjoyed some of the glitziest graduation ceremonies in the country, complete with a light show and giant-screen televisions, all presented in a specially constructed "graduation village".

But after four days of festivities in the temporary village, which boasts an auditorium made by a company that supplies structures to Royal Ascot, lecturers' leaders have had enough.

The University and College Union, angered by the extravagance, accused the university of putting "image above substance" at a time when academics faced another round of job cuts.

The union failed to find out under the Freedom of Information Act how much more expensive this year's events were than those held at Leeds Town Hall in previous years for £70,000. Amid speculation that the final bill could top £500,000, UCU has called for a governors' investigation..

Andy Pike, national official at UCU, said that the university had made a series of job cuts in the past year, including 25 in computing and 20 at Harrogate College. He added that up to ten full-time equivalent posts in languages were under threat.

"Yes, we must attract new students, but they must have adequate numbers of skilled and dedicated staff when they arrive," he said. "The governors should investigate the spending and other indulgences and make a statement on spending priorities."

Simon Lee, Leeds Met's vice-chancellor, said: ""The union might be against scaffolding and might not appreciate the significance of creating a temporary graduation village, but the festival brings people to our hidden yet beautiful (Headingly) campus in a way that graduations in the Town Hall did not.

"Many of those enjoying this week's ceremonies compared the experience favourably to Town Hall graduations and to those in other universities.

"These graduations have been established for three years now and have no connection to the separate issue of balancing the rapidly changing curriculum required by our students with staffing profiles."

He declined to confirm the cost of the events as the information was "commercially sensitive".

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