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STUC 2014 Dundee

University review on diversity must be implemented

Davena Rankin
Davena Rankin

The STUC slammed the new Code of Governance from university chairs as a missed opportunity making very limited change, failing to address issues on senior managers’ pay, and failing to ensure representation on the governing bodies reflects the diversity of Scotland’s population.

This failure is due to a lack of proper consultation with staff, students and trade unions. Congress also re-iterated its opposition to undergraduate tuition fees, and rejects the rest of the UK tuition fees for students.

UNISON's Davena Rankin called for the original Von Prondzynski review recommendations on the reform of University Governance are implemented in full.

"Until we have governors and senior management teams of universities that fully represent the diversity of their workforce and student body we will continue to see building projects prioritised over decent pay and equitable terms and conditions for all staff and for Black and female staff. The glass ceiling will not only continue to exist but will be reinforced and double glazed."

Davena was proud that both tuition fees and the learn now pay later graduate tax have been scrapped in Scotland and we have a system of higher education that is free.

But she warned: "At a time when staff in universities have seen their salary fall by 15% some universities are encouraging their staff to make monthly donations to boost the already overflowing university coffers. When universities are challenged on why they see the need to build up reserves they respond by saying that they are saving for a rainy day.

"Congress, I would argue that for my members forced to use food banks to survive that it is not only raining but we are in the middle of a monsoon session that has been going on for years."

The reason university principals and governors do not recognise this is because they are unrepresentative of the workers they seek to lead. The lack of diversity within university governors is shocking and self perpetuating as those who create the person specification for new governor vacancies are the current governors.

Professor Von Prondzynski recognised the need for diversity when he produced his recent review in university governance. "While the report was far from perfect the fact that the current Chairs of court were vocal in their opposition and went as far as producing an alternative code of governance is a ringing endorsement of the review", said Davena.

"The review suggested that courts seek to have at least 40% of female governors - a low standard in my opinion given that the majority of students and staff in universities are female. He also called on reserved seats for trade union representatives in addition to the elected staff governors - both recommendations caused a sharp intake of breath by the Chairs of Court so while it was not unexpected it was disappointing to see both recommendations dropped from the new code of governance."

Davena paid tribute to the late Sheena Grant, a UNISON activist based at Aberdeen University. She was a cleaner and for the latter part of her life she was a staff governor on her university's court.

"Sheena was able to reflect the reality of life on campus for governors who are too often isolated from the workers. Unfortunately, not every university has a Sheena as a governor on their board which is why we need to increase the diversity of governors as well as ensuring the trade unions have guaranteed seats at the board", said Davena.

Date 15 April 2014

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