Union votes no confidence in Reading bosses over ‘mismanagement’

UCU branch rejects redundancies plan and blames ‘poor investment and spending decisions’ for financial woes

February 15, 2019

Union members at the University of Reading have passed a motion of no confidence in the institution’s council and senior management, following fresh financial revelations and plans for job cuts.

The University and College Union branch motion accuses the university council of overseeing “mismanagement and poor investment and spending decisions in the past”, and the executive board of pursuing “adversarial” governance in moving to “threaten” staff with compulsory redundancies if insufficient numbers sign up to a voluntary scheme.

The Guardian reported last week that Reading had reported itself to the Office for Students over a £121 million loan. The university said that it was investigating whether it had improperly benefited from the sale of land belonging to the National Institute for Research in Dairying trust, in which it is the sole trustee.

Prior to that, Reading’s latest accounts recorded a £20 million deficit, largely down to problems with the university’s Malaysia campus.

In July last year, it was announced that Sir David Bell would leave Reading to take over at the University of Sunderland. He has been replaced by acting vice-chancellor Robert Van de Noort.

In December, Reading announced the opening of a voluntary redundancy scheme but said that if that did not produce the required savings, “then, in the absence of other solutions, compulsory redundancies will be necessary in some areas”.

The UCU motion of no confidence rejects senior management’s “current attempts to make people take voluntary redundancy by threatening compulsory redundancies in the near future” and rejects their rationale for job cuts of “a fall in student recruitment, pension costs and Brexit uncertainties”.

The “true reasons”, says the motion, are “short-sighted governance” that failed to anticipate recruitment trends; “mismanagement” leading to “lower NSS scores” and “investments making losses”; “adversarial governance” on the redundancy plan; and “opaque governance” with “no effective involvement of the wider academic community in decision-making processes”.

The University of Reading has been approached for comment.

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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