RHUL Staff Voice Threatened Amid Ongoing UCU Dispute

Izzi Vaughan | Editor in Chief

A proposal threatening Royal Holloway staff involvement on the College Council has been put forward by the Council Effectiveness Review. The proposal seeks to change the number of positions held by directly elected staff from six to four, and suggests that as independent members are appointed following an interview process, the same appointment process should be used for staff members. This is a wholly undemocratic decision which will make the Council less effective in serving the interests of its staff and students.

It is through Council that the powers of the college are executed and delegated, and so it is of the utmost importance that staff have directly elected members on the Council to represent their interests. The Academic Board, responsible for the academic work of the university which reports to the College Council, have opposed the reduction of staff representation and the replacement of elected staff members. These views were reported to the Chair of the Council, Dame Margaret Hodge MP, and it was then decided that the Council would not hear the Academic Board’s concerns. Under Hodge’s chairmanship there have been some minor infractions of the College Statutes, but not accounting for the Academic Board’s concerns to the Council is a much more significant infraction.

Royal Holloway’s UCU branch have made clear their views on this matter. They maintain that the election of staff members to the College Council is of fundamental importance to the success of the university, and that this proposal is wholly undemocratic. In order for the university to succeed, for the sake of students as well as this institution, it is of vital importance that the experiences of students and staff are represented in the productive scrutiny of the governance of Royal Holloway. This is why UCU staff recommend the election of all independent members by staff and students, which would allow for effective representation in our interests, and the interests of staff.

Staff representation on the Council is vital because the Independent Members of the Council do not have regular contact with staff and students. They are better equipped to serve the interests of senior management rather than the interests of staff, students, or the success of the university. The top 10 universities in the country are notable for the depth of their academic board representation, so reducing staff representation will damage the future prospects of our university.

Changes to the statutes to reduce the number of elected staff members on the Council or to change their method of selection would require agreement of the Privy Council, a process which will require funds which could be better distributed elsewhere, especially at this time of economic uncertainty. It is worth questioning why this university is at this time choosing to focus on unnecessary statute reform at the cost of staff representation in the midst of a union dispute, rather than more pressing matters in the midst of a national crisis. At this time, with challenging economic and welfare implications for both current and future students and staff at Royal Holloway, it is unacceptable for the Council to be diverting resources to reduce staff representation.

This proposal threatens the interests of both staff and students at this university. Reducing the voice of staff makes it harder for them to represent student interests on the College Council, which will damage the experiences of students at the university and the long term prospects of the college. With this issue, as with the UCU dispute as a whole, we must stand with staff as our peers. The working conditions of staff are the learning conditions of students. All of us ought to stand with Royal Holloway’s staff in this as in everything, shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, to protect their rights as workers and our rights as students of this institution.

Staff have asked for students to email their views to the chair of the College Council via the College Secretariat at secretariat@rhul.ac.uk. I encourage all students at Royal Holloway to do so in solidarity with the staff of our university, expressing our objection to the College Council proposals.

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