Category Archives: Executive Board

Co-hosting a divisive speech by the Prime Minister – a misreading of our role in society say GCU Unions

Glasgow Caledonian, not Glasgow Cameronian University

Glasgow Caledonian, not Glasgow Cameronian University

Campus trade unions expressed their extreme concern today at the University’s decision to co-host an event  in the London Velodrome together with the British government, where David Cameron used his office as Prime minister to set out his case against independence. Widely trailed on the BBC and other broadcasters the day before as a major intervention by the Prime Minister into the independence debate, Court members were only informed the night before the event,  that the speech – promoted as a ‘business development’ opportunity – would even take place.

Following public criticism of the university’s action by social media commentators Derek Bateman and from pro independence website NewsnetScotland, the GCU student VP Education and the Daily Record, the university subsequently issued a statement explaining its actions, including its inability to give notice due to ‘an embargo imposed by the Prime Minister’s office in the light of security issues’

According to the Campus Unions who issued the attached statement today, they had been ‘inundated with messages of disbelief’ from members of staff’ about the decision to co-host the event. Amongst the points made by the joint unions were: ‘This was not an academic seminar on the benefits held on the University Campus. This was not a debate on the upcoming referendum. This was David Cameron MP setting out his case against independence using his office as Prime Minister – the speech was published by the Cabinet Office’. 

The statement goes on to say: ‘Independence is a contentious issue in Scotland. Amongst the unions and workers at Glasgow Caledonian University there are mixed views on how people should vote in September. One of our unions, the UCU actually organised a debate amongst their members on the referendum this week.’

The campus unions have put a number of questions to university management regarding the decision to co-host this event, and the prominent use of the university image. They have also sought more information on the ‘Global Leadership Seminars’ and their future, and also on the associated costs of the Velodrome event.

In a communication to the joint unions, the university’s head of communications Charles McGhee has re-iterated that ‘The University has publicly stated that it will continue to maintain a neutral stance on the referendum and other political issues. However, GCU encourages open and robust debate on a wide range of issues and sees it as part of its role to help facilitate such discussions’.

The combined unions and the staff they represent will be watching this space closely to see exactly how such discussion facilitation will proceed in the immediate future in order to regain the perception that Glasgow Caledonian does take a neutral stance – something which would not be the public view at the moment.

Glasgow Caledonian Unions welcome management change of heart over student resit ‘fines’

The announcement today that GCU management have withdrawn plans to ‘fine’ students for resits and retaking modules was today welcomed by GCU unions. Speaking on behalf of the University and College Union, branch president Douglas Chalmers said: “We welcome this step back by management on the issue. This really would have hit hard those who already find it hard to finance a university career – exactly the students who the university has a proud record of aiming to help.”

Earlier this month a joint statement of support had gone to the Students Association from both the UCU and EIS, pledging support for the students’ campaign in this area, and Douglas had addressed the Student Parliament to add the support of the combined unions at GCU.

We believe the original proposals were ill conceived” said Douglas, “it appeared that there had been no equality impact assessment done, and in this case, no real consideration given as to how the university carries out its remit to ‘improve the Common Weal’ – something the unions have always supported. In this light, we also welcome the pledge made to the Student Association president from the university secretary Jan Hulme today, that  ‘support available to students who face hardship in the course of their study could usefully be more clearly flagged, and [that]the Student Funding Team will be tasked with looking at that’.

We also welcome the pledge from Ms Hulme that the signposting of provision for students who need additional learning support will similarly be reviewed so that students undertaking resits or retaking modules are reminded of the range of support they can call upon”

In a message to the University Unions, Student Association President Matte Andrews said: “On behalf of the Students’ Association and the student population, I would like to extend a massive thank you for all your support over the last month and I hope that this is the beginning of a pro-active relationship with the Students’ Association campaigning alongside the Unions“.

Independent review calls for shake up of university governance

An independent review of Higher Education Governance in Scotland today called for fundamental change in the way universities are governed.

Amongst its recommendations:

  • Governing bodies need to better show that they observe principles of good governance, regularly reviewing their own performance.
  • Meetings of University Court should normally be held in public.
  • There should be representatives of academic unions and of support staff unions on University Court (in addition to directly elected staff members)
  • At least forty percent of the Court membership should be female, and membership should also reflect principles of equality and diversity more generally.
  • Senior managers other than the Principal should not be Court members, nor attend unless for specific agenda items where their attendance is deemed necessary.
  • Chairs of Court (which should now be an elected post) should work closely with Principals, but be independent of them.
  • University Principals’ performance should be appraised by external governing body members, staff and students. Their method of appointment should be reformed.
  • Remuneration committees should include staff and student members.

The panel looking into change also recommended that the role of trade unions in university governance should be enhanced.

The report (copy here) has already been welcomed by university unions. We expect that it should be welcomed by our University Court in the interest of good governance.

University unions would welcome a real discussion with representatives of the Court on this document as well as on the shocking revelations of the staff survey. This should of course be of a more serious nature than ‘staff listening’ events – which it appears even the Principal’s office is now recognising do not work.

We have also written to Principal Gillies’ representative asking that the Principal attend meetings of the Joint Consultative Committee (as was standard practice with previous Principals). We will report back on her response to your staff representatives.

Scottish Press reports criticism of Senior Management at GCU

A hard hitting article by the Herald’s Education reporter Andrew Denholm has brought the shocking results of the recent GCU staff survey into the public’s gaze.

Stating that “A survey of staff at Glasgow Caledonian University  found just 19% said principal Professor Pamela Gillies and her management ‘lead the university well’ “, Denholm’s report goes on to outline the devastating statistics which have emerged from the management-initiated survey.

Within the article,  Dr Nick McKerral, convener of the university’s combined union committee expresses the point that “although they are obviously committee to their job within the public service of higher education, the figures show that ordinary staff feel ignored by highly paid senior management who have carried through many controversial plans, including attempting to make 95 compulsory redundancies last year”.

Nick is also quoted as saying  “The unions on campus will be requesting a meeting with Court, the governing body of the university, to ask what they plan to do about the failures of GCU management reflected in the survey.”

Denholm goes on to report that “Prof  Gillies who earns £211,000, pointed to many positives within the survey in an e-mail to the staff. She said the survey results show that staff are generally positive about the university, with 92% saying they are interested in the university and it is more than just a job.”

The full report can be found here on the Herald’s website, and on this blog’s Media Coverage page.

GCU Court needs to act NOW on shocking findings of Staff Survey

Fact. The GCU Trade Unions were not consulted about the contents of the survey nor questions within it.

Fact. The survey was issued after a long period of senior management  minimising real consultation with the unions at GCU.

Fact. The result of the survey is a damning indictment of long term inept management at the university which is clearly linked to the practice of ignoring the views of staff and their elected representatives.

If this was the business community, boardroom changes would have taken place long before now.

Fact. It is about time University Court did something about this and proved they act in the interest of the university community, its staff, the students who we serve, and the Scottish people who deserve more from a publicly funded and top class higher education establishment.

How the staff feel:
While 84% feel valued by colleagues, only 34% feel valued by the University.
Staff feel proud of what they do but despair at how they are treated
.

Only 19% agree that senior management manages and leads the university well.

Only 14% agree to any extent that senior management listens to and responds to the views of front line staff.

Only 43% – less than half – of senior management agree to any extent that they themselves set out a clear vision of where the university is headed.

This can only be described as an abject failure of leadership.

Perhaps this is reflected in the fact that a higher proportion of senior management (21%) than staff across the board (19%) are actively seeking to leave the university. Lets hope that this 21% includes the 7% of senior management that isn’t particularly interested in the university – it’s just a job!

The chaotic process that was restructuring
Very few staff agree to any extent that the changes brought about by restructuring were ‘about right’ (17%), ‘well planned’ (19%) ‘well explained’ (28%) or ‘managed well’ (22%).

Even senior management wouldn’t admit to the effective planning (29%), explanation (36%), or managing (36%) of change.

Fact: Senior management admit they are not doing their job effectively.

In spite of these fundamental issues of concern, 71% of staff agree to some extent that they feel inspired to do their best work every day. Most (70%) still think that GCU is a good place to work and 85% do claim to enjoy their work.

What the staff opinion survey shows is that GCU can celebrate its staff – but not its leadership.

Any inaction on these statistics would discredit  GCU Court as much as senior management seem discredited in the opinions freely given by university staff, – union and non-union members – alike.

For more information on GCU governance see our blog page here


GCU Unions – Management do not have a monopoly on wisdom

The trade unions at GCU note that Court endorsed the Executive proposals on restructuring at their meeting yesterday.

Whilst happy with the removal of the threat of 95 compulsory redundancies, which was made by the Executive on 18th May, the trade unions are disappointed that none of the suggestions and alternatives to the management driven structures have been taken on board either by the Executive or the Court.

Staff in many support clusters took time and energy to put forward viable alternative models for many of the clusters both through their trade union reps and individually. These have been dismissed either with cursory comments or in many cases no comment at all.

Thus many front line services will be lost and senior management posts have been created without a full explanation of why alternatives were not considered.

The Unions are aware that although the threat of compulsory redundancies has been removed many staff who possibly do not have positions within the new structures will feel vulnerable.

Just as your Unions forced management to withdraw their ill conceived plans for compulsory redundancies, we will also ensure that all staff at GCU will be fully protected and not forced out the back door in the restructuring process.

Meanwhile a reminder – celebrate VE day – Victory in Education Day, and the withdrawal of the compulsory redundancies. Friday 10th June 5pm till late. Dows Bar, Dundas Street Glasgow.
We’ll see you there!

Scottish Parliament hears the case for reform of University Governance

A packed committee room heard reports of university governance 'not fit for purpose'

A packed Committee Room 1 of the Scottish Parliament heard calls for bringing democracy to the present system of University Governance – widely seen as ‘not fit for purpose’, in the view of university staff from the majority of Scotland’s universities. MSPs from the governing SNP, and from Labour and the Greens were clearly disturbed by the reports given to them about lack of serious governance by respective university courts from staff across the sector, following the lobby, organised by the UCU and EIS on 25th May.

The anger amongst those who are beginning to find out about how governance is exercised was shown in the intervention in the discussion by Nationalist MSP Bill Kidd who had visited GCU and spoken to staff several times over the past year. Stating his opinion that  “I don’t think these people are fit to be in charge of the University”, he went on to call for  “a complete overhaul of the governance of universities and colleges.”  Clare Baker, Labour’s shadow spokeswoman on Education stated to the meeting  “You have made a very strong case for the need to look at governance and we will support moves towards this”. This was echoed by Green Party leader Patrick Harvie who added “Management need to act as leaders of a community, not as CEOs of a business”

Brian Pillans from Caledonian UCU updates MSPs, flanked on his left by Clare Baker, Labour Education Spokesperson

Representing the unions at GCU, Brian Pillans updated those present on the victory achieved by the unions at GCU. This had shown what was possible, and he thanked parties of all colours for their support and their  pressure on management. This support had also come from the students, the media and the wider community, without whose support the victory would not have been won.  This victory had been at great and needless cost to staff however, due to the totally unnecessary actions of senior management who had followed a flawed strategy from the beginning, rather than working with the unions.

On the question of future changes to governance, Brian suggested that those who argued for universities to be run as a business could not ignore the accountability which was was now built into private sector governance following necessary reforms. Some serious work needed carried out on practical mechanisms which would continue to guarantee academic independence of the sector, but also ensure that the use of public money was always transparent and those using it were accountable to the wider community.

Cupcakes, illustrated Principals' salaries (excluding pensions and other benefits!), including our own Principal's at £182,000

During the meeting MSPs were clearly surprised at the level of salaries being paid to senior management and to university principals, details of which are downloadable here.

Eyebrows were also raised at the number of senior staff at GCU earning more than the First Minister of Scotland, and indeed, more than the Prime Minister David Cameron.

Outside in the lobby, the media had been interested in the cupcakes representing the salaries of University principals. These included the salary of our own at £182,000, not including pensions and other benefits.

Strathclyde University Students whose course is threatened by cuts

As well as the cupcakes providing sustenance, Liam Burns, outgoing NUS president offered support and students from the threatened music course at Strathclyde University entertained the crowd (as did a mysterious ‘fat-cat’ who members may also recall seeing at similar events at GCU).

Further photos can be found on Caledonian Union’s flickr site here

A university fat cat with a crisis of conscience?