Prof. Gareth Price provided a brief introduction and then the review was discussed.
The following motion was proposed from the floor (proposed Sarah White, seconded Hartmut Logemann). It was discussed and voted in the meeting with 55 members supporting the motion, none against and 4 members abstaining.
Academic Assembly welcomes Halpin’s report as a move towards a more inclusive, democratic and transparent University.
We support Halpin’s call for greater diversity amongst lay members of Council, restrictions on terms of office, plus rigorous register of interests and connections amongst Council members. We are pleased to learn that the search for a new Chair of Council is underway.
We disagree with the suggestion that the number of elected academic representatives on council should be cut. We propose that the number of representatives on council from job families other than Education & Research should be increased to at least two. Diversity is an issue amongst staff as well as lay members. If the VC and DVC were no longer voting members of council (see below) this would still retain a lay majority on council.
A critical advance, we believe, is Halpin’s recognition of the principle of separating executive and governance functions, expressed in the suggestion of a new post of Head of Governance, accountable to Council. If this post is established, we look forward to engaging in the process of defining its remit more closely.
We are disappointed, however, that the report does not apply this principle consistently. The separation of executive and governance functions requires that members of the executive should not serve on the main governance body. We therefore call for members of the senior management team to be removed as voting members of Council and its committees, to attend as observers only.
This principle of separation of powers has further implications. While we welcome Halpin’s suggestion that a student member join the Nominations Committee, this again does not go far enough. As this committee nominates members of Council including its Chair, it is inappropriate for the Chair of Council to be a member of Nominations Committee.
We also call for greater transparency and inclusion in the nominations process, including the work and composition of the Nominations Committee. Vacancies should be publicised in good time with all stakeholder groups encouraged to make nominations. The process of selection should then be open, allowing for real discussion and debate. Nominations Committee would then take on more of an administrative, rather than the executive role it has now. We are also concerned by the current practice of Senate or Council members being nominated by Council/Chair of Council to sit on any governance bodies or committees. All such positions should be filled by open, transparent processes, whether these involve election or appointment.
We welcome the greater recognition given to Professional Services staff and Technical staff. We believe this should also be extended to Operations and Facilities Support staff. Halpin suggest a new Assembly for Professional Services and Technical staff, modelled on Academic Assembly. This may be appropriate, but given the diversity of members of other job families, both in kinds of work undertaken and in levels of pay and management responsibility, we feel that other options, including a University Assembly (collectively representing all job families) should also be explored in a consultative process.
We welcome the reforms Halpin recommends regarding senior remuneration. However, we call for these to be extended, both to make clear that more modest salaries will be instituted across senior management, and to commit that bonuses for outstanding performance will in future take the form of one-off payments, not be consolidated into annual salary.
We welcome the recommendation that a steering group be formed to implement the report. We call for immediate consultation across the University community as to the composition of this group, which must include elected representatives of staff and students, and the campus unions. It is vital that this group proceeds in a transparent and consultative way, with respect both to its own composition, and in its mode of operation.
We welcome the recognition that the challenges we face do not simply concern Council, but reflect a larger crisis of management, legitimacy and overall structures and functioning of the university. We believe it imperative not to wait for the appointment of a new VC but to begin immediately on a wider process of reform. This requires strong leadership and commitment to reform within senior management in addition to sustained momentum from below.
We register concern that Halpin places much faith in ‘communications and culture’ as ways to address these wider problems. We believe this underestimates the depth of discontent and the challenges we face. Culture is indeed an issue, but this will only be addressed if structures change, with democratic participation, transparency and inclusivity engineered into the DNA of our future University.
Academic Assembly is the statutory body representing academic staff in the governance structure of the University. It may discuss and declare an opinion on any matter whatsoever relating to the University, including any matters referred to it by the Senate, and, if it so decides, submit resolutions to the Senate. All staff in the Education and Research job family belong to Academic Assembly. Further details of its membership, terms of reference and procedures may be found on the Academic Assembly web page.