Union call for openness

October 20, 1995

Staff at Portsmouth University will be asked to pass a vote of no confidence in the chair of governors at a meeting next week.

The decision follows outrage expressed at the restricted publication of a report into the expenses irregularities which led to the resignation of vice chancellor Neil Merritt.

Five copies of the report all marked "confidential" have been placed in the university library this week - up to now only a summary of the conclusions have been available - but can only be read by individuals holding a library card, which the library will retain while the report is being read.

Staff or students wishing to read it will also have to sign an undertaking that they will not photocopy the report, show or communicate any part of it to any other person, except members of staff or students who have signed a similar clause. Time for reading the 166-page report has been restricted to two hours.

A university spokeswoman said the measures were necessary because its lawyers had advised that full publication could put Portsmouth at risk of legal action.

A motion passed by the Association of University and College lecturers branch at Portsmouth called for the report to be published fully because restricting public access could only damage the university.

Last week lecturers' union Natfhe and the association called for the resignation of the chair of governors Stuart Waring as well as a senior member of the board, Charles Brims, ex-chair of the audit committee.

A decision on Mr Waring's re-election as chair was postponed last week by the other governors until December to give staff and students a chance to read the report.

Mr Merritt has still not been replaced and the university announced recently that it was abandoning the search for a new vice chancellor until next spring on the grounds that all the good candidates dropped out and a shortlist could not be constructed out of the remainder. Neil Bateman is currently acting vice chancellor.

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