Warwick and conflict of interest

July 16, 1999

Vice-chancellors' concerns about Diana Warwick's elevation to become a working Labour peer are quite right ("Warwick peerage splits CVCP", THES, July 9). There is a conflict of interest and no matter what Warwick's qualities are that enable her to balance that conflict, her motives will be continually questioned. In future, she may well properly represent the interests of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals in her dealings with government. Her difficulty will be in convincing others of that impartiality in the various forums in which she participates that will undermine her credibility.

Despite the rightness of their case, vice-chancellors have been ignored, discounted and not consulted about things that affect them directly. Most work hard for their institutions and for the broader church of higher education through the CVCP and other bodies, but their staff work equally hard. Vice-chancellors feel they have been contemptuously dismissed and have been reminded that it hurts and it makes them angry. They are learning the frustration felt by tens of thousands of their staff who have been treated in the same way and which was so vociferously expressed at the Association of University Teachers conference in May.

Long may Warwick continue as chief executive of the CVCP as a constant reminder of how important mutual recognition and respect are in any organisation but particularly in universities.

Robin Thomas, Past president, University of London Senate House local association, AUT

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