On the 2nd February, a Student Council Meeting was held where a motion to put forward a Vote of No Confidence in University Management and the Vice-Chancellor was passed. The Student’s Union has since held a referendum on the question where 1010 students voted in favour compared to only 82 against!
The original motion highlighted 5 key failings of the University during this year, focussed around students and learning during the pandemic.
The ‘Ignite’ system – intended to be a programme of blended learning – has failed to materialise or even be explained. Students have been abandoned in their tiny rooms to study online, while they continue to pay fees and rent. There are no safety nets for students, and the failings of the Executive Board do not stop there! The debts of the university have soared over the course of the pandemic, with the University defaulting on loan payments. All of this is happening while 65 members of Senior Management sit happily on massive 6 figure salaries. All the while threatening to cut as many as 145 jobs at the university.
Student petitions expressing dissatisfaction have been ignored, and there has been no communication from the Executive Board. The University sits on a surplus of £35 million whilst it jeopardises countless people’s livelihoods. On top of this, staff members – like others up and down the country – were offered an insulting 0% pay rise this year – a pay cut in real terms during a pandemic. And the insulting opportunism of the management doesn’t stop there! The University has been slashing vital degree programs to save costs, all under a cynical guise of “decolonisation”, polishing their public image while diminishing real efforts to fight racism.
When wages are being cut, jobs are on the line, and loans are being defaulted on, serious questions of Senior Management need to be asked. They must not be allowed to line their own pockets while students and staff suffer.
No confidence and no support
The Yes campaign – put forward by students in support of a vote of no confidence – was the only campaign to put forward an argument at all! The No campaign gave no materials to the Student Union to argue against the motion. Clearly, students are unwilling to defend the Executive Board. University Senior Management themselves did not even have the courtesy to speak on the matter either.
Between the absence of a no campaign and the overwhelming majority who backed a vote of no confidence, it is clear students here have no faith in the senior management, and no illusions as to whose interests they represent – their own. The Executive Board and Vice-Chancellor have, through their actions over the past year, exposed themselves for who they really are, and students see that clearly.
Where next from here?
Leicester Marxist Society fully supports this motion. We have no faith in the senior management of the University of Leicester, and we demand change. However, it is important to note that the senior management, whilst they are incompetent parasites, are not solely to blame. If they were all sacked and replaced, the problems at the university would not vanish: their lack of concern for student well-being and control over the finances arise from the structure of the universities themselves; they arise from the marketisation of higher education. If we replace this management and make no other changes, we will not fix this problem! The new management will be incentivised to carry out the same cuts!
We fully support a vote of no confidence in this management – but that vote of no confidence must also extend to the very institution of senior management itself! We demand an end to the system which incentivises such goons to jeopardise people’s livelihoods in the first place!
The entire university management system must be removed completely and replaced with staff and student control of the universities – only this way can the university be democratically run for our benefit. Universities should be free at the point of service for students, and staff workloads should be fairly shared. There should be plenty of staff in order to provide high-quality free education and to create a good work balance for academic staff. The money already exists in society to fund this sort of education – it is sitting in the accounts of the monopolies and the billionaires, who have amassed trillions during this pandemic.
This referendum is a great win and a good start, but the Student Union and the campaign to remove VC Canagarajah now have some important steps to take. We must work alongside unions representing workers on campus to raise radical demands.
We should demand the university give staff and students access to the books to allow us to democratically decide how money is spent to avoid a similar financial crisis happening again. The Student’s and Campus Unions should also be demanding a drastic pay cut for senior management – there is no reason that management should be paid more than a senior lecturer at the university.
The Student’s and Campus unions should demand the reconstitution of the Senate so that it is made up of democratically elected members of staff, students, and local community members. Senior management should then be elected from members of the senate, and management should become an annually elected and recallable position.
The fight to remove VC Canagarajah is inherently tied up with the fight to end the marketisation of education and for student and staff control of universities. Only once the latter has been achieved can the cancer of parasitic management be done away with.