Fortnightly during term time.
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In today’s issue, we report once again on the proposed gutting of University Court. The body, which is Lancaster’s largest and most diverse stakeholder gathering, has already been pushed close to being merely a ceremonial gathering, but D Floor’s clear ambition is now to abolish it entirely and replace it with a PR event. Not that subtext expects top table to meet much resistance – there was little opposition to the idea of abolition at Senate last week, and now, we assume, we just wait for the University Council to drop the axe.
What are the implications of this? Well, it means in no uncertain terms that our alumni, dignitaries, and other external stakeholders will now receive no say whatsoever in any part of the University’s operations. The Court – our last truly democratic governing body, which elects large numbers of its members and is responsible for approving our Chancellor and, until recently, Pro-Chancellor – will cease to exist, depriving stakeholders from whom we rarely hear of the chance to offer unique perspectives and propose policies that the Senate and University Council are mandated to, at the very least, discuss. Attending the University Court, especially for alumni and external stakeholders, is a labour – members travel from miles around to be in attendance, and they do so because there is a sense of duty to the University as well as the opportunity to be involved in Lancaster’s decision-making. Is anybody going to swell with a sense of social responsibility at the thought of traveling 245 miles to listen to a drab presentation from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor on financial performance and hear Roger Liddle shouting ‘long may the University prosper’ before retiring to the lobby for some ‘light refreshments’?
The ‘pitfalls’ of having a University Court, as outlined by the Chief Administrative Officer, are vanishingly small. At this stage in the Vice-Chancellor’s tenure, it is easy to draw patterns between meetings that have put his nose out of joint or embarrassed him and proposals to make those meetings suddenly disappear. Make no mistake – the abolition of University Court would be an act of petty isolation, and a means of senior management keeping a tighter grip on just who gets to be involved in decision making. The role of Bath University’s own Court in bringing their overpaid VC to book admirably demonstrates the value of having such an independent minded body with the ability to intervene. Maybe this is why so many Vice-Chancellors are so keen to get rid of them.