Statement on the Visitor inquiry into UCL
7 February 2018
UCL Visitor Terence Etherton, who as the master of the rolls is one of the most senior judges in the UK, has asked a QC to advise him on a petition lodged with him by a member of staff.
The petition has asked the Visitor to arbitrate on a number of issues regarding the way that UCL is governed and operates. UCL's senior management has prepared a statement which was issued to the Financial Times, which first reported the story.
A visitor is a role that dates back to medieval times and has responsibility for overseeing an autonomous institution.
"UCL will fully co-operate with any investigations and requests for information by the Visitor or anyone acting on his behalf. As a mark of respect to the Visitor and the investigation that will occur, we don't consider it appropriate for specific detail to be aired in the press by responding to all the claims made by the petitioner in advance of that more formal process.
"Most of the issues raised in the letter to the Visitor have already been considered by internal investigations or by HEFCE and have been determined to be unfounded or mistaken. UCL is fully committed to being as transparent as it can be in all financial and governance issues, and to complying with all internal and external rules and regulations regarding its activities.
"As evidence of this, we would point to last year's HEFCE review of similar issues over governance which considered all relevant documents and interviewed council members and senior staff. Its November 2017 report stated: 'Our overall conclusion relating to the core Assurance Review is that we are able to place reliance on UCL's accountability information.
"'We also conclude that no further actions are needed as a direct response to the 2016 public interest disclosure. Relevant actions proposed in UCL Council's effectiveness review have been taken.'"
"Academic quality: It should be noted that mergers (with the School of Pharmacy and with the Institute of Education (IOE)) have been a significant factor in UCL's expansion. Despite this expansion, UCL's staff student ratio in the complete university guide 2018 is the second best in Britain at 10.4:1. UCL was seventh in the world in the most recent QS rankings of research performance. Our mean rank in international research league tables puts us at sixth in the world.
"In the government's most recent research ranking UCL was the top-rated university in the UK for research strength by a measure of average research score multiplied by staff numbers submitted. UCL researchers received a 'grade point average' of 3.22 (out of 4) and submitted over 2,500 staff to be assessed in REF2014, giving UCL an overall research power greater than both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge.
"Financial position: UCL is in good financial health and has plans for investment in people and infrastructure in order to continue to deliver world class teaching and research. This investment has been made possible by astute and careful management to ensure UCL's financial sustainability.
"In 2016/17, UCL generated a surplus of £80m on a turnover of £1.3bn, one of the healthiest in the university sector. The average performance for research-intensive universities in the UK last year was 3.6%. We have a surplus target for the current year of 5.4% of our total income, increasing to 6.1% by 2019-20. Together with the loan from the European Investment Bank and with our philanthropic campaign which has already raised £370m towards its target of £600m, this level of surplus will enable us to make the investment in our estate and digital infrastructure.
"Consultation and approval: UCL's strategy (UCL2034), which sets out a 20-year plan to secure UCL's continued position as one of the top universities in the world was approved by both academic board and council in July 2014 and has been discussed in depth at two of the annual Council away days. The plans for UCL East have also been approved in recent months by both the academic board and council.
Academics back UCL expansion in letter to The Times
As academics who work at UCL, drawn from across several different faculties, we would like to assure readers of The Times that story headlined "University College 'ignored staff before agreeing £1bn expansion'" is not an accurate reflection of the views of the overwhelming majority of UCL staff.
It is true, UCL's Visitor is obliged to appoint a person of repute to investigate a formal complaint when made. This is a matter of simple procedure. Among the matters raised, let us address the claim "that proposals for the vast expansion, which involves building a campus in the Olympic Park, had been bulldozed through and exposed the university to financial risk". These matters were discussed in October 2017 at UCL's senior staff-led body (Academic Board) that advises the UCL Council on all academic matters and questions affecting the educational policy of UCL. At that meeting, the Board was presented with a very detailed overview of the academic vision and financial planning underpinning UCL's development of an innovative campus, UCL East, on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Hundreds of staff members assessed whether, on the basis of the considerable evidence provided by all sides, there was any reason to delay or prevent or oppose the move to create a transformative campus in east London.
An overwhelming majority voted in support of UCL East across financial management, academic principles and geographical location and affirmed our commitment to be part of the new Cultural and Education District on the Olympic Park with The London College of Fashion, Victoria and Albert Museum, and Sadler's Wells. We will also join Loughborough in London, BT Sport, Cancer Research UK and many others who have committed to transform the former Olympic Park in a unique and innovative fashion. There was excitement over the academic vision presented which belies the accusation that UCL is putting financial gain ahead of its commitments to teaching and research.
Far from being imposed from the top down, UCL East is a project driven and, in academic content devised, by academics who dream of transforming the way UCL relates to London and reimagining the role a university can play in urban regeneration.
The letter you cite provided a good headline, but the claim that this is a story about misconduct and reckless adventurism is fundamentally wrong.
1. Professor Michael Stewart - The Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences
2. Dr. Haidy Geismar - The Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences
3. Professor Kate Jones - The Faculty of Life Sciences
4. Dr. Ben Campkin - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
5. Professor Paola Lettieri - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
6. Professor John Mitchell - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
7. Professor Piet Eeckhout - The Faculty of Laws
8. Professor Tony Kenyon - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
9. Ms Jo Volley - The Faculty of Arts and Humanities
10. Professor Rodney Harrison - The Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences
11. Professor Andy Hudson-Smith - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
12. Professor Steve Hailes - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
13. Professor Gary Lye - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
14. Professor Dejan Mumovic - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
15. Professor Nigel Titchener-Hooker - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
16. Dr. Catherine Holloway - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
17. Mr Greg Thompson - The Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences
18. Professor Mariana Mazzucato - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
19. Professor Henrietta Moore - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
20. Professor Bob Sheil - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
21. Professor Mark Emberton - The Faculty of Medical Sciences
22. Professor Alan Penn - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
23. Professor Jason Peacey - The Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences
24. Dr. D'Maris Coffman - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
25. Professor Rainer Kattel - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
26. Professor Andrew Davies - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
27. Professor Jonathan Montgomery - The Faculty of Laws
28. Professor Iain Borden - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
29. Professor Sue Hamilton - The Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences
30. Professor Susan Collins - The Faculty of Arts and Humanities
31. Dr. Emma Richardson - The Faculty of Social and Historical Sciences
32. Emertius Professor John Lowry - The Faculty of Laws
33. Professor Jeremy Watson - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
34. Professor Carsten Gerner-Beuerle - The Faculty of Laws
35. Dr. Paul Shearing - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
36. Professor Dan Brett - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
37. Professor Francesca Medda - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
38. Mr Kieren Reed - The Faculty of Arts & Humanities
39. Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
40. Mr Peter McLennan - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
41. Professor Andrew Edkins - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
42. Professor Julio D Davila - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
43. Professor Stavroula Balabani - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
44. Ms Frosso Pimenides - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
45. Mrs Emanuela Tilley - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
46. Dr. Lena Ciric - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
47. Professor May Cassar - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
48. Ramsay Memorial Professor Marc-Olivier Coppens - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
49. Professor Asterios Gavriilidis - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
50. Professor Panagiota Angeli - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
51. Mr Carl Gombrich - The Faculty of Arts and Humanities
52. Professor Haroun Mahgerefteh - The Faculty of Engineering Sciences
53. Professor Frédéric Migayrou - Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment