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Pressure builds on divided University Council to resign

Thursday saw an unprecedented display of unity and strength from staff and students on campus, coming together to reject the Vice Chancellor’s golden handshake and demand the departure of the governors who cobbled the deal together. Almost a thousand students and staff joined the protest on campus, which received substantial press attention from the Guardian, BBC, ITV and Bath Chronicle.

The announcement of the Vice Chancellor’s departure, in 2019, with a paid ‘sabbatical’ worth £235K and the write off of a £31K car loan, has been roundly condemned outside of the university and by staff and students. That pressure, and the demonstration outside yesterday’s meeting of University Council meeting, led to a vote of no confidence in the Chair of Council, Thomas Sheppard. The vote was lost, as was to be expected from a governing body that has repeatedly demonstrated its inability to understand staff and student concerns. But Council was divided. Only 13 of the 22 voting members expressed confidence in the Chair by voting against the motion. 4 supported the motion and 5 abstained.

Also yesterday, members of Bath Students Union voted to no-confidence the whole of the University Council by 2371 to 151.

Staff and students have no confidence in the management or governance of the University of Bath. They command no loyalty from us. If they had integrity, they would have already resigned. As it is, they can only cling to the last shreds of such formal authority as remains to them.

Everybody except a few governors and those at the top of senior management now knows that a fresh start for the University is not possible under its current leadership.

 

 

 

Governors must go, no golden goodbye. Thursday 3.30 Wessex House

Tuesday’s announcement that the Vice Chancellor is leaving in 2019 was clearly aimed at taking the heat out of the current crisis of governance at the university.  With students holding a referendum of confidence in the governing body, and staff still seething about HEFCE’s attack on ‘poor governance’ that has damaged the university’s reputation, the prospect of a big protest outside today’s meeting of the University Council has caused panic at the top.

The joint trade unions have been critical of the VC’s inflated salary, and we share the widely held view that the terms of her departure are inappropriate, not least because the same terms would not be available to any other member of staff, particularly one whose mistakes had played such a big part in creating the crisis.  The VC does not believe that she has lost the confidence of the majority of the staff.

Our attention now, though, has to be focused on those who bear greater responsibility for the problems we are facing, and who show no sign of understanding that.  They led us into this mess, they can’t lead us out of it.

That is why we are calling on all our members to demonstrate to members of the University Council that when they discuss the HEFCE report today they should consider very carefully what they have done, and what they have not done that has contributed to the failings of governance identified in the report.  We are calling for a fresh start and that means a fresh look at who is running the university and how it is run.

Join your colleagues and students today at Wessex House.  We will assemble in 5W2.1 from 3.15 and demonstrate our feelings to Council members as they arrive for their meeting at 3.45.

University of Bath UCU branch committee

See Michael Carley’s account of the current crisis of governance at the university.

Now is the time to ask your colleagues to join UCU.

 

 

Pensions ballot starts tomorrow – vote YES and YES to action

Employers are divided over the future of the USS pension scheme, with Warwick VC today making public his concerns about proposals to end the current scheme and transfer all risks to members.  Bath VC Glynis Breakwell, who sits on the board of USS, has not revealed Bath University’s view.

UCU members are now being balloted for strike action to defeat the proposals.  The ballot opens tomorrow, but members at Bath may not get their ballot papers untial a week later after Bath’s HR raised objections to the ballot process.

For more information go to the national UCU website and see the latest Bath UCU newsletter

Breakwell and Sheppard told to leave now

Hundreds of staff crowded into 5West lecture theatre today to express their anger and concern about the findings of Monday’s HEFCE report which was highly critical of many aspects of the way the university is run.  Many more staff were diverted to another lecture theatre next door after security raised safety concerns.  The meeting backed the unions’ call for the VC and Chair of Council and the Remuneration Committee to go ‘with immediate effect’, and agreed to join students protesting at next Thursday’s meeting of University Council if both are still in position by that time.

HEFCE report slams university for poor governance practice – but you are not allowed to comment.

Yesterday HEFCE (the HE Funding Council for England) published a report that is highly critical of many aspects of the way the university is run.

The Vice-Chancellor and senior managers did not act “in good faith” when their pay was discussed at Court in February (Findings 25 and 26).

The university has been in breach of its own statutes for fifty years by not having standing orders for Court (Conclusion 10).

HEFCE is disappointed that university management “did not respond more proactively to the representations made about the Remuneration Committee” over recent years (Conclusion 12).

Consideration should be given to including staff and/or student representatives on the Remuneration Committee (Recommendation 11).

The governing body has ignored official guidance on the practice of remuneration committees, even though it was published more than two years ago (Finding 30).

There is not “sufficient evidence that Council has considered these matters [remuneration] as thoroughly as it should” (Finding 32).

The university’s poor governance practice has damaged the reputation of the university (Conclusion 9 and multiple recommendations)

Just before the HEFCE report was published, a new 3.9% pay rise for the Vice Chancellor was disclosed. The pay rise was only revealed following a Freedom of Information request. The trade unions’ view of this is that the university’s reputation for teaching and research excellence is built on the hard work of all its staff – including the large numbers on zero hours and other insecure contracts. The view of those who run the university is that the Vice Chancellor and other senior managers are responsible for the university’s success, and deserve big pay rises while everybody else gets a pay cut.

The Chair of the University Council (governing body of the University)and University Remuneration Committee Thomas Sheppard has issued a response to the report, but he did not include a copy of or a link to the HEFCE report in his message.  You can see some of the headlines from it above.

Despite the local and national interest in this matter, nobody is able to respond to this message because the comments function has been disabled.

Mr Sheppard occupies an important role, but he is not the University.

If you don’t want your comments to be disabled by Mr. Sheppard, come to tomorrow’s emergency all staff meeting from 12.15 – 1.00 in 5W2.4


 

USS: UCU moves to a ballot for action to defend pensions

A well attended conference for delegates from UCU branches in pre-92 universities was held in Manchester on November 9th. The conference voted unanimously to move to a ballot of members for action to defend pensions. For a full report on the conference click here.

For more background to the dispute over USS see Post by Sam Marsh (Sheffield UCU) at HE Marketsation

Update: VC Pay & Governance

It has been several months since HEFCE launched an investigation into the University of Bath. The investigation is ongoing and is expected to conclude later this month.

Recent developments:

  • There have been reports of a “very significant” drop in undergraduate student applications. These match feedback from staff across the academic departments that prospective students and parents are frequently raising questions and concerns about senior management pay and governance.
  • University Council (the governing body) announced the removal of the Vice-Chancellor from the Remuneration Committee. However, the Vice-Chancellor will still attend meetings of the Remuneration Committee and UCU have described the announcement as a “worthless stunt to try and stem the tide of damaging media stories“.
  • Council have revealed some details of the long-awaited university governance review. The joint unions are concerned that staff and students will not be able to meaningfully participate in the review.
  • Staff, students and Emeritus Professors who are members of University Court have requested an urgent meeting to discuss senior management pay and governance. They have received a letter to inform them that this request has been blocked by University Council.
  • Film director and University of Bath honorary graduate  Ken Loach is the first external speaker to publicly cancel an event at the University over the scandal. He joined students to demand “the resignation of the vice-chancellor and senior governors”, introduction of a 10:1 pay ratio, cuts to student rents and governance reforms “to give students and staff more control” of the university.
  • Four Members of Parliament have now resigned from the University, citing unacceptable senior management pay and inequality. The MP for Bath, Wera Hobhouse, has also condemned university governors for the Vice-Chancellor’s “morally indefensible” £451K salary, which she said had “brought the university into disrepute“.
  • Freedom of Information requests have revealed that last year almost £19K was claimed in expenses for the Vice-Chancellor’s Lansdown Crescent residence (including bills, Council Tax and a housekeeper), and that the Vice-Chancellor has also received a £31K interest-free car loan from university funds.

Many of these developments have been summarised in a timeline article by the Bath Chronicle.

Union Action

The unions at the University of Bath have long fought to address staff and student grievances about failures of the governing body to tackle pay inequality and excessive senior management pay rises.

In early July, the unions sent a letter to members of University Council about these issues. Four months later, the letter remains unanswered. It is clear that despite everything that has happened, there remains powerful resistance from the very top of the university to any meaningful dialogue with staff and students about the problems of pay inequality and university governance.

Last month the unions invited national UCU Vice President Doug Chalmers to Bath to discuss the crisis of governance. He was able to provide some insights and advice from his experience with governance reforms in Scotland. The unions will now be meeting to agree a way forward in a joint campaign for a more open and democratic university that is accountable to its students, staff and the wider community.

The joint unions will continue to provide students and staff with updates and will be consulting with members about how we should proceed with the campaign. This is your university and it is important that you have a say in how it is run. If you would like to offer suggestions or take a more active role, please contact your union branch President or Chair by replying to this message.

University of Bath UCU
The SU, University of Bath
Unite, University of Bath
UNISON at the University of Bath​

HEFCE Inquiry into University of Bath governance and decisions on senior management pay

The regulator for Higher Education in England has announced that it “is making enquiries of the University of Bath…about governance practice in relation to the remuneration of senior staff.” Investigation by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) follows a formal complaint by the former Education Minister Lord Adonis who, last month, issued what has been described as “a scathing attack on [the] ‘greed’ of Bath University Vice Chancellor Dame Glynis Breakwell”.

Local politicians have responded with condemnation. Wera Hobhouse, MP for Bath, reacted to the HEFCE complaint by saying that “the university has brought itself into disrepute” and that the Vice Chancellor’s £451K salary is “morally indefensible”. B&NES Councillor Joe Rayment blamed the “Vice-Chancellor’s outrageous pay and perks” on “governance that is rotten to the core”.

The unions at the University of Bath have long fought to address staff and student grievances about failures of the governing body to tackle pay inequality and excessive senior management pay rises.

Most recently, in early July, the unions sent a letter to members of University Council, requesting the suspension of decisions of the remuneration committee pending an immediate and thorough governance review. One month later, the letter remains unanswered.

Despite the damage they are inflicting on the reputation of the university, and on staff and student morale, there is still no evidence that senior managers or governors are willing to acknowledge the need for significant and prompt changes.

Your unions remain committed to arguing for and helping to create a university that is fair, open and democratic, and in which the collective voices of staff and students are listened to and respected. Thank you for your continued support.

University of Bath UCU
University of Bath Unite
UNISON at the University of Bath

The SU, University of Bath

If you would like to become more actively involved in your union, or to join if you have not yet done so, contact the UCU Branch Secretary.

Pay and pensions fights ahead

Over 40 members attended a branch meeting on July 20th to hear UCU National Executive Committee member Denis Nicole outline the current position on pay and pensions.

Pay

The employers have increased their offer to 1.7% but made no meaningful concessions on either the gender pay gap or casualisation. Members are now being consulted in an e-ballot on whether to accept the offer or not. The deadline for voting is July 28th. If you have not received an email containing your link to the ballot check your junk mail and if you still can’t find it contact UCU head office.

Pensions

As predicted, the employers are coming back to make further detrimental changes to the USS pension scheme. In 2014 the employers introduced a new Defined Contribution element to the scheme for earnings over £55,000. Defined Contribution schemes provide no guarantee of pension benefits. UCU managed to mitigate some of the worst elements of the employers’ proposed changes, but now they say the scheme’s assets are insufficient to meet future payments, UCU disputes the method used to value the scheme’s assets. It is likely that members will be called on to take action to defend pensions at some point during 2017-18.

House of Lords in shock at size of Bath Vice Chancellor’s pay packet

On the same day that Lord Adonis launched a scathing attack on pay inequality in UK universities and the ‘greed’ of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Bath, the joint trades unions (UCU, Unite and UNISON) and Students’ Union wrote to all members of University Council calling on them to suspend the University Remuneration Committee pending a full and immediate review of its decisions and decision making processes. (more…)