UCL News


Commission of Inquiry Town Hall Meeting, Wednesday 16th October 2019

10 October 2019

The Town Hall will be held on Wednesday 16 October from 2–4pm in the Cruciform Building B304 Lecture Theatre 1. There is no advance booking for the event. We look forward to seeing you there.

Cruciform Lecture Theatre 1

The Commission of Inquiry (CoI) was established by Academic Board to review the problems reported in UCL’s governance, decision-making and strategic direction, and to establish their accuracy and causes and, where necessary, to make recommendations for Academic Board to approve a way forward, addressing any problems in the light of academic values and UCL’s academic mission, and in the spirit of transparency and accountability to the academic body. The focus of the CoI includes:

a) the centralisation of UCL decision-making on matters that affect academic work and its effect on this;
b) the way that the delegated powers of Academic Board have/are being reported and used by other committees and bodies;
c) the current role of academic input into the appointment of Heads of Department, Deans and Vice Provosts, and how these relate to their constituencies;
d) the position of the Senior Management Team in relation to other UCL committees and academic input into its decisions;
e) the structure and composition of key UCL Governance-Level Committees, especially as regards academic representation and input into their decision-making processes and regards transparency and accountability of their decisions.

It is with these aims in mind that the CoI welcomed the Decision by the Visitor, circulated to all members of Academic Board by the Provost on 18 April 2019. The Visitor’s report, conclusions and recommendations are consistent with the CoI’s concerns and focus. The Visitor drew attention to the need for challenges that are raised before Council or other committees to be treated sensitively and courteously, and he called for greater openness to debate. The Visitor commented positively on the benefits of effective representation of the views of academics and of greater transparency. He also recommended reviewing the effectiveness of Academic Board and whether reforms would improve the possibility of academics’ voices being heard.

The CoI has so far had meetings with the following: Professor Michael Arthur (Provost); Professor Anthony Smith (VP Education and Student Affairs); Ms Wendy Appleby (Registrar); Mr Phil Harding (Director of Finance); Ms Fiona Ryland (Chief Operating Officer); Mr Dean Stokes (Director of Planning); Mr Turlogh O’Brien and Baroness Jo Valentine (Lay Council Members); Prof Tony Segal. Forthcoming meetings will be held with Professor David Lomas (VP Health), Ms Lindsay Nicholson (Lay Council Member), Professor Lucie Clapp and Prof Patrick Haggard (Elected Members of Council).

The CoI has also been focusing on specific case studies in order better to understand the structures and processes of decision making. These include:

1. Changes to the Regulations for the Management [of UCL] (RFM)
2. Changes to committee structures and decision making processes
3. Delegated powers of Academic Board
4. Changes to the process of the appointment of Deans and other senior leadership roles
5. Decision-making in relation to Athena Swan
6. Decision making in relation to PhD Thesis impact statements
7. Financial decisions
8. Consistent application of HR policy

So far, the discussions and the case studies have raised issues relating to: informal decision making, centralisation of decision making, the scope for consultation and discussion, effectiveness of Academic Board, inclusion of academic voices in committees, identifying structures to ensure effective exchange between Council and Academic Board, accountability, and the cost implications of UCL 2034 as well as academics’ relation to it.   

The CoI would like to hear views from across UCL and from all colleagues at UCL relating to these and any other issues of governance and decision making. If you are unable to attend the Town Hall meeting, please email any comments to Sandra Hinton (s.hinton@ucl.ac.uk). Confidential submissions can be made to the Chair of the CoI, Stephanie Bird (stephanie.bird@ucl.ac.uk).

Members of the Commission of Inquiry:

Prof Stephanie Bird, Prof Jonathan Butterworth, Dr Alun Coker, Prof Nicola Countouris, Prof Elizabeth Fisher, Dr Martin Fry, Prof Mark Hewitson, Dr Helga Luthersdottir, Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia, Prof David Price, Dr Benet Salway, Prof Ralf Schoepfer, Prof Sonu Shamdasani, Prof Michael Singer, Prof Sacha Stern, Dr Sherrill Stroschein, Prof Andrew Wills.