Petition to Lord Mandelson – Claim that University of Leeds broke its own rules
The University of Leeds has been hit with a formal challenge that accuses the institution of breaking key rules on how the university is regulated. The challenge, in the form of a Petition to the Visitor* of the university (Lord Mandelson in his capacity as Lord President of the Council), from a member of staff claims the university bypassed the body responsible for the academic mission of the university, the Senate, when it implemented a restructure plan for the Faculty of Biological Sciences (FBS).
The University and College Union (UCU) has confirmed it is acting on behalf a member of staff in FBS. The action calls for an investigation to determine whether the restructuring plans were already too advanced by the time the Senate had the chance to see and influence them and therefore fulfil its regulatory duty.
The Petition, submitted on Friday (29 January), claims the academic mission is the responsibility of the Senate and that the university’s Council and executive were not empowered, under the university’s rules of governance, to alter it without the consent of the Senate which, UCU claims, was not obtained at the proper time, or indeed at all.
UCU has noted that as a consequence the FBS academic mission has been drastically altered by the loss of staff and the impact is already being felt by students who are now struggling to find a supervisor with the specialist knowledge required. The union has highlighted the Petition made to the Visitor at the University of Keele in 2008 in which the Visitor emphasised importance of the role of Senate.
The Petition also calls for all further action related to a current ‘Economies Exercise’ to find savings and axe more jobs to be put on hold while the Visitor investigates the complaint. The Petition argues that a failure to do so risks the same mistakes being made and that the current proposals being considered by Council and the university management will drastically alter the academic mission of the university. These proposals, it says, must be adequately scrutinised by the Senate.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: “Our universities spend millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money and it is right and just that there is proper scrutiny of how they spend that money and why certain decisions around their academic missions are taken. The recent shambles at London Metropolitan University is an all-too recent and painful example of what can happen if proper scrutiny is not given to universities’ decisions and actions.
“No institution can, or can be seen to be, circumnavigating its own governance procedures and an urgent investigation needs to happen so everyone can have full confidence in how Leeds is conducting itself. It is quite right and proper that any further job loss exercises should be put on hold until this situation is properly cleared up.”
*Note: The Visitor of the university is responsible for ensuring that the institution conducts its affairs in accordance with its Charter and Statutes.
Update: The University posts the petition on campusweb