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Debate for students between University and UCU representatives

December 5, 2009

Students roll out a petition of names collected over just a few hours

At a meeting for students arranged by the Students’ Union yesterday, the UCU (represented by Mark Taylor-Batty) and the University (represented by Steve Scott) went head to head over the Economies Exercise in a debate for students. The Pro-Vice Chancellor for Staff and Students outlined the economic estimates that had led the University to conclude it was necessary to cut £35M and the UCU executive outlined how the University was borrowing £35M for buildings on top of the £360M already planned on such investment. Student-staff ratios, job cuts, the VCEG hotel retreat, the undeniable link between SSRs and the national student survey, how current students were being measurably affected by job cuts and how people being told there is no place for them in the University are being described as ‘voluntarily’ leaving its employ were all discussed.

One student present argued that the University could save at least £1M by curbing top salaries. Another described the extravagance of a leaving do she had witnessed (as a waitress) at the Vice-Chancellor’s Leeds residence. Another student, a former tax office worker, talked about how he would not be convinced by the University’s claims over its projected budgets, as statements were simply not adding up. One student, in response to Steve Scott’s claim that the University needed to borrow an extra £35M because buildings will be income-generating, asked what would be income-generating about a glass frontage on the Union building. The UCU will examine the claim that buildings such as this will generate greater income than the staff who must be sacked in order for the University to be able to afford the £35M loan.

The Vice-Chancellor’s dismissal of a UCU show of hands vote was also discussed, and it was pointed out that the vote in question was at a meeting with three times the population of Senate and with more elected staff representatives than Senate. Whether the VC would then dismiss a show of hands vote at Senate was offered as a rhetorical question.

LUU had also invited a UCU spokesperson from Tower Hamlets College. His branch had to resort to indefinite strike action when they were threatened with compulsory redundancies and severe job cuts earlier this year. They defended jobs and education, won an agreement with ACAS’s abitration to no compulsory redundancies and proved that the threatened job losses were unnecessary.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. This is interesting permalink
    December 7, 2009 10:47 AM

    This is a shockingly one-sided report considering that it was presumably written by a lecturer; in order for this to accurately reflect the meeting Prof. Scott would have needed to have spoken for only 10 mins and no students would have agreed with him at all. I will simply state that the meeting lasted for an hour and a half during which both sides spoke for an equal period of time and the bias will become obvious.

  2. December 7, 2009 11:09 AM

    The University spends thousands on its campaign to promote the £35M cut and job cuts and links to these are widely available, including via LUU’s website. The UCU’s campaign to defend jobs and defend education via this blog costs £0 and is only available here. The University and the VC have been invited to correct anything we publish here or in our student FAQs. They have not sent us corrections and we are confident everything is accurate.

    If you were present at the debate and believe that Professor Scott received equal support from students as did Dr Taylor-Batty, please do say so. If you think anything Prodessor Scott said deserves reporting, you are welcome to add it here. How’s that for unbiased, transparent and honest blogging? If you believe what you say is fair, then please follow up with a report of your own, and we shall invite other students present to comment also.

  3. An academic permalink
    December 7, 2009 6:50 PM

    Steve Scott’s unwillingness to allow a show of hands indicates how little this university is interested in hearing the views of a crucial group of stakeholders – the students.

    What is not being admitted to by the university is that the student experience is being drastically eroded across in some Schools by measures including:

    1) A 50k to 60k annual cut in scholarships in some departments
    2) Immediate cutbacks in invited speakers in areas directly related to students’ courses
    3) The abolition of double marking
    4) Higher student staff ratios
    5) Cutbacks in lab equipment
    6) Cutbacks in photocopying (especially as regards lecture handouts)
    7) Halving the number of lectures offered on core courses
    6) Reduced ‘optionality’ (ie. less choice regarding cores, electives and options)
    7) Abolition of student module evaluation forms

    The students affected have not been consulted and in some cases they have seen their opinions on individual measures actively ignored. Seems pretty one-sided to me . . .

    (Although I can see why the university hopes we’ll all be suckered by a nice glass frontage – very *transparent*)

  4. Peter Smith permalink
    December 8, 2009 9:41 AM

    ‘This is interesting’ is right. This report doesn’t cover everything. Mark Taylor Batty was given some difficult questions. When asked if he thought it was unethical to be scaremongering students with 700 job cuts, he got the only round of applause all evening when he pointed out it was unethical, but that’s what the university was doing. He then demonstrated the maths from £35 million that resulted in 700 jobs, and it was unarguable. He was then asked why he was using the figure of 700 when the UCU website reported the Guardian as saying the job cuts at Leeds would be 187 jobs. He pointed out that this is the figure of jobs currently at risk, before the calculations, and that 70 jobs from Biology alone would fall. He also pointed out that in July the VC said that to lose £20 million per year from their accounts would be a worst case scenario, but that when they did then discover that they’d lost £20 million a year from their accounts, all they say is that it’s OK it’s not their money. Steve Scott unbelievably even repeated that! Another thing that this blog fails to report, perhaps out of sensitivity, is that our VC pays himself a quarter of a million! […]

  5. December 8, 2009 10:03 AM

    The above comment has been edited by us to remove a reference ‘[…]’ to someone who could be identified from the comment in an unfavourable way. While this was not an insult, it was deemed inappropriate. If you would like to resubmit that portion of the comment in a manner that is less accusatory, then we’d be happy to publish it. The rest has been published

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