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UCU committee members talk to their MP about our concerns

November 20, 2009


Greg Mullholland

Greg Mullholland

Greg Mulholland (MP for Leeds North West) held an impromptu surgery on Tuesday night in Headingley.  Two members of committee dropped in to see him at different times, and this is what they said:


1) Staff and student morale is at an all time low as staff student ratios are  set to rocket with a negative impact on workloads and ‘best student experience’.

2) Greg Mulholland was already aware of the threat in the Faculty of Biological Sciences, having been lobbied by UCU in Westminster in October and having been contacted by several of his affected constituents.  He has written to the VC about this.  Last night, he was told of other areas (e.g. the School of English with its great RAE performance) which are under review, and that colleagues more widely are under threat, and our concern that redundancies in FBS is the forerunner of this.

3) That the University got its financial forecasting wrong by £20 million a year over a 4 year period and is expecting us to make savings in line with this mistake. Greg Mulholland was interested to know how this had come about and what actions had been taken in response to it.

4) That this 10% cut is an attempt to sack the university’s way up the league tables. Greg Mulholland was told that VC Michael Arthur had stated to UCU at JCUU that whilst he was aware that SSRs were a measure of the aspiration to be in the top 50, he was prepared to take the ‘short term hit’ on this one.

5) That all services and departments had been asked to identify savings, even those who were net income-generators and those who were in surplus.

6) That the VC had stated that the cuts would not be across the piece but in targeted areas, and there was tension between this and his stated aim that where possible job losses would be achieved through natural wastage and voluntary means.

7) That the university is not legally compliant with section 188 or with the requirement for SEDIAs. The Honorable MP said to one UCU committee member that this was worrying, but it was difficult to make universities accountable. The UCU committee member responded that universities take public money and that they therefore have a duty to spend it wisely and retain expertise.

8.) That a win-win scenario would be lifting the student admissions cap and getting young people off the dole queue.

9) Greg Mulholland confirmed that he would be writing to David Lammy.  He has already written to the VC and was less than enthusiastic about writing to him again.

10) That the threat of compulsory redundancies was about more than a threat to families or a ruined Christmas. The real impact is likely to be felt by the local economy.  Greg Mulholland expressed concern to one UCU committee member that if 700 jobs are to go, not only will this have an impact across the city, a significant proportion of those people will be his constituents.

19 November protest

19 November protest

11) One UCU committee member indicated that the threat to “bring in research income or lose one’s job” is not a good way of ensuring that good ideas are developed, and gave examples where this might hypothetically be detrimental (eg. bird flu vaccine research or a cure for cancer)

12) Greg Mulholland was given a copy of the student briefing which he thought was very useful.

He listened carefully and expressed concern.

Can we keep up the pressure on our elected members of parliament please?  Those colleagues who haven’t yet written to their MPs can download a model letter here, and can find out how to contact their MP using a quick online system here.  Writing or visiting a surgery are both good ways to help raise the profile of our campaign to Defend Jobs and Defend Education at the University of Leeds.

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