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President’s blog: Russell Group Statement in The Guardian and tomorrow’s General Meeting

January 12, 2010

Dear Colleagues,

The UCU very much welcomes the Vice Chancellor and Wendy Piatt’s article in today’s Guardian, lobbying for HE funding.

The UCU warned last term (in Leeds Student, Issue 2, 16-22 October 2009) that the cuts would have a serious impact on the student experience whilst students were being told that “Q: What will these savings [£35M] mean our for current students? – A: Very little I hope. And that’s why I’m particularly keen to reassure students that any rumours they hear suggesting that the cuts are going to affect them fundamentally are actually quite misleading.” (Podcast, November 2009). Whilst we were accused by the University of scaremongering, we suggested that offering the cuts through the ‘Economies Exercise’ would encourage the government to seek further cuts and challenged the Vice Chancellor over his statement on campus web that the Economies Exercise “can actually help the University achieve its strategic ambition of a place in the world’s top 50 by 2015”.

So UCU welcomes the intervention of the VC in the HE funding debate and the call for increased funding, not cuts, and notes his acknowledgement of the ‘devastating impact on students and staff’ that such cuts will create. Moreover, the irreversible damage caused by cuts to the sector would discourage overseas students from attending UK HE courses, cutting off an important source of income which helps subsidise home students. The impact of this will be more severe at a University like Leeds which is currently popular with overseas students.

UCU also remains extremely concerned at the processes adopted in FBS and the manner in which it sets a wholly unwelcome precedent. This is a reflection of the views of very many staff in FBS.

This is a time for collegiality more than ever, cuts will have an enormous impact on both staff and students. I am glad to say that the VC has acknowledged this and we now need to have proper, meaningful consultation. You will need to use your vote and vote yes to both questions in the ballot in order to strengthen the hands of your negotiators who are seeking to protect the staff, students and the future quality of education at Leeds.

I urge you to attend tomorrow’s General Meeting at which Officers will report on progress with our dispute, followed by an address from the General Secretary of the UCU, Sally Hunt. (UCU General Meeting, Worsley Medical Lecture Theatre, 7.35, Worsley Building, 1pm Wednesday January 13th).

Best wishes,

Malcolm

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