Commission of Enquiry - Academic Board special mtg, Mon 14 May

14 May 2018

On Monday 14 May there was a Special Meeting of the Academic Board, at 10.00 - 12.00 in the Cruciform Building, B304 (LT1), called by 148 signatories to a letter that contains a motion on UCL's current state of governance, management, and direction. An anonymous paper vote was taken.

The motion under discussion reflected concern expressed in a number of fora about the direction in which UCL has been taken, and its impact on academic work, and the need for more responsiveness to academic voices. See below.  Academics throughout all departments of the university report the effects of these moves and UCL staff know how the costs associated with them are affecting their day to day work. The AB motion asked a commission to look into these matters in the light of academic values, and what UCL as a university aspires to be in its academic mission.

The reported problems include:

  • Increasing centralisation of decision-making that significantly affects the work of the academic and learning communities and the growth of bureaucratic burdens, originating in bodies without proper AB oversight;
  • The reduced representation or influence of the academic and learning communities in UCL's structures, formal committees, which seem to have decreased in transparency and accountability to the wider body of the university;
  • The domination (without exception) of Council's majority lay membership by people from the business, commercial, finance, and property world, and the effect of this perspective in side-lining academic concerns and voices;
  • The push towards the production of surplus as a main driver of UCL strategy, in ways that do not seem to benefit the existing academic body and their work (loss of time, more obstacles, an erosion of conditions including pensions), all under the heading of the UCL 2034 strategy. There is also the increase in student numbers (an increase in over 59%, even excluding mergers, since 2008- much of it since 2014) and property speculation that seems to be unconcerned with effects on academic groups. There is no plan for relieving everyone's additional burdens in the same strategy, just more of the same. Yet this "sweating of the assets" was never declared openly or properly consulted with the Academic Community (the UCL 2034 consultation only focused on vague and uncontentious headings, and assurances of no major detriment).

At the last Academic Board a motion was overwhelmingly passed demanding that senior management consult Academic Board on any adopted policy with regard to the USS pensions scheme.

However, more transparency and accountability are needed, and we are pleased to report that the outcome of the paper ballot at the Special Meeting of Academic Board was as follows:

Against the motion - 44

For the motion - 149

Abstain - 7

The motion was carried, and arrangements for establishing the Commission will soon be made.