UCU Local Association committee were pleased to receive a response to our letter of 26th April (sent both by e-mail and hard copy) which arrived in in-boxes on 16th May late in the afternoon.
Sadly the letter does little to suggest that Council considers the current strategy places the institution, its staff and students at risk. Nor is there any suggestion that current failings might lead to a change of view. The Baroness makes no mention of our request for a meeting with her to discuss member concerns, and also we note that the letter was channeled via the Office of the Vice Chancellor.
In particular, the Baroness explains that “the role of Council is to provide strategic oversight of the governance and management arrangements of the University but not to become involved in operational decision making which properly rests with the Vice Chancellor supported by his Executive Team”.
This is a worrying perspective which suggests that Council are only concerned with ensuring that the rules are being followed and that the management team and structure is appropriate.
In fact, HEFCE expect that Council follow the principles of the Higher Education Code of Governance, a Committee of University Chairs code of practice. That places the responsibility upon Council to “be assured that appropriate steps are being taken to deliver (institutional sustainability, through its mission and strategy) and that there are effective systems of control and risk management.”
UCU suggests that Council oversight must extend beyond simply ensuring that the right boxes are ticked, to include a responsibility to ensure that the strategy is delivering in a timely manner and in line with the promises made that led them to approve it.
Since implementation, targets for recruitment have been missed, as have the subsequently “revised down” targets. We simply ask how long this pattern of failure can be allowed to continue before Council begins to question the efficacy of current policy.
Baroness Taylors letter is reproduced here……
“Thank you for your letter written on behalf of the UCU Local Association dated 26 April expressing UCU concerns following the Extraordinary General Meeting.
I think we all know that these are challenging times for the whole HE sector with so many changes on so many fronts and that our University is also having to update in many ways. These changes will inevitably need careful handling and I can assure you that Council is aware of this.
Perhaps I can start by saying that the role of Council is to provide strategic oversight of the governance and management arrangements of the University but not to become involved in operational decision making which properly rests with the Vice Chancellor supported by his Executive Team.
As a Council we fully support the University Strategy and associated action. Council approved the establishment of the Bradford Excellence Programme, fully recognising the need for change in the University. Council is also fully aware of the pace of change and note that this is not uncommon in the sector with many other universities taking forward ambitious change programmes in response to Government policy and funding changes.
Obviously I have brought your letter to the attention of the Vice Chancellor and his team. I will report your letter to the full Council at the next meeting later this month and we will (as we always do) receive and question reports and updates on all these issues.
I will contact you after the meeting of Council with any views of members.
Baroness Ann Taylor”