Letter to Council and Special AB Meeting

Dear Fellow Member of Academic Board,

I am writing to you to ask whether you would consider reading and, if you agree, signing - by replying to me - the letter to Council about Statute 18 on behalf of members of Academic Board that is pasted at the bottom of this post.

The first 63 signatories of the letter are listed below (although about 100 signatures have come in so far). The aim is to gain as many signatures as possible well in advance of the Council meeting on 28 November.

To sign, send an email saying "I wish to sign the AB letter to Council" to the email you received with the link to this post.

Apologies for any cross-posting.

Yours,

Dr. Saladin Meckled-Garcia,
Cc: Prof. Cecile Laborde, Prof. Susanne Kord

PS. A special meeting of Academic Board will be held on Wednesday 21 November 2012 at 4pm in Cruciform B304 Lecture Theatre 1, to discuss a proposition we have submitted on these proposals. If you are able, please do come along to the meeting, since it is possible that a decisive vote will take place on this occasion – a proposition for the meeting has been circulated advising Council about the new proposals

Initial Signatories of Letter to Council

1.     Prof Bas Aarts, English
2.     Prof Rosemary Ashton, English
3.     Prof Richard Bellamy, Political Science
4.     Prof Wendy Bracewell, SSEES Prof Wendy Carlin, Economics
5.     Prof Pamela Davidson, Russian Prof David D'Avray, History
6.     Prof John Foot, Italian
7.     Prof Mary Fulbrook FBA, German
8.     Prof Matthew Gandy, Geography
9.     Prof Sebastian Gardner, Philosophy
10. Prof Michael P Gilbey, Neuroscience
11. Prof Stephen Guest, Laws
12. Prof Helen Hackett, English
13. Prof Catherine Hall, History
14. Prof Mairead Hanrahan, French
15. Prof Theo Hermans, Dutch
16. Prof Parmjit Jat, Neurodegenerative Disease
17. Prof Benjamin Kaplan, History
18. Dr Dilwyn Knox, SELCS/Italian
19. Prof Axel Koerner, History
20. Prof Susanne Kord, German
21. Prof Cécile Laborde, Political Science
22. Prof Andrew Leak, French Prof Robert Lumley, Italian
23. Prof Philippe Marliere, ESPS
24. Prof Tim Mathews, French
25. Dr Saladin Meckled-Garcia, Political Science
26. Prof Véronique Munoz-Dardé, Philosophy
27. Prof Richard North, English
28. Prof Michael Otsuka, Philosophy
29. Prof Karen Radner, History
30. Prof Geoffrey Raisman FRS, Neurology
31. Prof Mike Raco, Bartlett School of Planning
32. Prof Thilo Rehren, Archaeology
33. Prof Jennifer Robinson, Geography
34. Prof Jane Rendell, Bartlett School of Architecture
35. Dr John Sabapathy, History
36. Prof Anthony W Segal, FRS, Biochemistry
37. Prof Alan Sokal, Physics
38. Prof Peter Swaab, English
39. Prof John Took, Italian Sean Wallis, English
40. Prof John Wood, FRS, Epidemiology and Public Health
41. Prof Roger Cooter, History of Medicine (Professorial Fellow)
42. Prof Martin Swales, FBA, German (Emeritus
43. Prof. Murray Fraser, Vice-Dean of Research for the Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment
44. Prof. John Hardy PhD, FMedSci FRS
45. Prof. Iain Stevenson, UCL Centre for Publishing
46. Prof. Chris McManus, PALS
47. Prof. Steven Miller, Science and Technology Studies/ Physics and Astronomy
48. Prof. Andrew Forge, UCL Ear Institute
49. Prof. Lucie Clapp, FSB, Medicine
50. Prof. Robert Lumley, Italian
51. Prof. Izzat Darwazeh, Electronic & Electrical Engineering
52. Prof Geoffrey Raisman, Brain Repair and Rehabilitation, FAMS
53. Prof Chris Rapley, Earth Sciences, CBE
54. Prof Irwin Olson, Eastman Dental Institute (Emeritus)
55. Prof Dallas Swallow, Genetics, Evolution and Environment
56. Prof. Susan Michie, Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology
57. Prof. Jan-Peter Muller, Space and Climate Physics
58. Prof. David Wengrow, Institute of Archeology
59. Prof. Kenneth J. Smith, The Institute of Neurology (Queen Square),
60. Prof. Claudio D Stern FIBiol FMedSci FRS, Life Sciences
61. Prof. Greg Towers, Centre for Medical Molecular Virology
62. Prof. Ralf Schoepfer, Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology
63. Professor Ian Zachary, Division of Medicine

Text of the letter to UCL Council:
Dear colleague ,

We are writing in our capacity as members of Academic Board about the planned reform of Statute 18. As you are perhaps aware, the revised proposal was sent out to the staff of UCL on Friday 19 October via The Week@ucl, on the same day that the agenda for the meeting of Academic Board on Wednesday 24 October was circulated. Many members of AB had therefore not had time to read and discuss the proposal by the time of the meeting.

Having examined the proposal, we are concerned that it will alter long-established practices of governance at UCL. We recognise that the Senior Management Team has the duty to manage UCL effectively and to ensure that it adapts to the changing opportunities and demands of research, student recruitment and education and the interests of government and a wider public. We also believe that the Council and Academic Board, as independent bodies, should give advice and should be closely involved in matters of academic and educational policy. We outline below why the proposed reform of Statute 18 weakens the role of theCouncil and AB in these matters.

As is stated in its remit, the Council, as UCL’s governing body, ‘oversees the management and administration of UCL and the conduct of its affairs, subject to the advice of the Academic Board on matters of academic policy.' This duty accords with the Charter and Statutes of UCL and guarantees that changes to the public duties and role of the university are discussed at the highest level, in accordance with Statute 6(2), which invests Council with its powers, ‘provided that the Council shall not make any decision on any question of educational policy or make Regulations on any matter having academic implications until the Academic Board has had an opportunity of expressing an opinion on such question or matter and until the Council has considered any opinion so expressed.’

At present, Statute 18 states that ‘The Council shall be the appropriate body’ ‘to dismiss any member of academic staff by reason of redundancy’. The fact that the Council is responsible for establishing a Redundancy Committee, composed of a Chair, two lay members of Council and two members of academic staff nominated by Academic Board, ensures that any decision to alter the composition, direction and public role of UCL as an academic institution is subject to the deliberation of the Council as the governing body and to the consideration and advice of Academic Board. It is appropriate and advisable that important matters of academic policy should be considered by the principal deliberative bodies of UCL from the outset.

The proposed amendment to Statute 18 merely asks the Council to ‘ensure that ... there are in place procedures for ... the dismissal of staff by reason of redundancy and appeals against such dismissals’ (Paragraph 1 (ii)). Instead of being asked to set up a Redundancy Committee for a specified purpose, with an associated duty to deliberate on the necessity of the committee and the impact of the planned changes at the outset, the Council is requested to appoint a Standing Committee on Academic Freedom under the proposed amendment. Once the committee is constituted, the Council will no longer be required, as a matter of course, to deliberate on major changes affecting the academic composition and public role of UCL and to receive the advice of Academic Board on such changes.

The role of Academic Board under the proposed amendment is further weakened by the procedure of appointment to the Standing Committee on Academic Freedom, which would be composed of ‘a Chair, two lay members of Council and two academic members of staff with experience in research and scholarship’. At present, Academic Board itself nominates two members of academic staff to serve on Redundancy Committees. The proposed nomination procedure within the amended Statute 18 fails to safeguard the independence of the appointees and further marginalizes Academic Board as the body entrusted ‘to consider and advise the Council upon all academic matters and questions affecting the educational policy of the College, the organisation of teaching, examining, research, and courses of instruction’ (Statute 7 (10) A).

More importantly, Academic Board has been asked by the Council to endorse the delegation to the Human Resources Policy Committee (HRPC) of its power ‘To consider and advise the Council upon the conditions and tenure of appointment of Members of theAcademic Staff: in respect of conditions of appointment of academic staff to established Chairs and Readerships, Deanships of Faculty and Headships of academic departments; in respect of appointment of such categories of academic staff as the Provost deems appropriate; and in respect of general policy matters relating to the conditions of appointment of academic staff’ (Statute 7 (10) A). The HRPC is composed of the Provost, Vice- Provosts, Directors of HR and Finance and Business Affairs, and the Deans of the Faculties. It lacks the independence of Academic Board.

In the context of the reforms outlined above, we believe that the deliberative and balancing role of the Council and Academic Board is at risk of being weakened, in contravention of the stated aims of UCL’s Charter and Statutes. It is worth considering what would happen if an executive Dean, backed by a future Provost, decided to cease research activity in a given academic field or fields, forexample during restructuring under the terms of UCL’s Organizational Change Procedure. It is likely, in our view, that HRPC would back the procedure and that the Standing Committee on Academic Freedom would rule, in accordance with its mandate, i) ‘that academic staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial orunpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges’, ii) that UCL is able ‘to deliver its mission and associated activities efficiently and economically’, and iii) that ‘principles of justice and fairness’ have been applied.

Given the significance of such decisions, we believe that it is essential that the Council and Academic Board, as independent and deliberative bodies entrusted with these duties in UCL’s Charter and Statutes, continue to carry out them out. Under the proposed amendment of Statute 18 and associated reforms, Academic Board would not be involved in matters of academic policy and reorganization, having delegated its power ‘To consider and advise the Council upon the conditions and tenure of appointment of Members of the Academic Staff’ to HRPC in perpetuity. It is likely that the Council would only have the opportunity to discuss such matters after they had been initiated, with potentially damaging consequences.

For these reasons, we request the Council to reject the proposed amendment to Statute 18 and the significant and irreversible alteration of previous practices of academic governance at UCL that it entails.

Yours faithfully,

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