It was a somewhat subdued Vice-Chancellor who opened Senate with his usual verbal report, and it is fair to say that he had much to be subdued about. There was the small matter of Lancaster’s rather large gender pay gap – one of the highest in the HE sector and not a league position he relished. He did not want to speculate on what might have caused this (though management policies and practices might be a good place to start). He was instead in the process of setting up a Task Force to look into this, with membership and terms of reference were being finalised. But we should not expect immediate results and it was likely to take ‘years of activity’ before the situation was resolved (so don’t hold your breath, laydeez).
He mentioned the recent pensions strikes (the most effective and best-supported that UCU had ever mounted, though of course he didn’t say this). He wanted to express his thanks for how the action was conducted to all involved, to Lancaster UCU, to heads of departments, and to the students. We all behaved magnificently, it would appear. As to the pensions issue itself, employers and union were now united in trying to ‘shift the goal posts’ (he wasn’t saying this the last time Senate met). On the plus side, he was happy to report a major improvement in the student retention rate, something he had previously identified as a major concern for the university. There was also to report a successful bid for an additional 60 medical student places, and a move from 9th to 8th place in The Times Complete University Guide.
There followed a discussion and approval of an Intellectual Property Strategy, content embargoed so we can’t report it. Then came a further look at proposed amendments to Charter and Statutes. As reported in subtext 174, Senate at its last meeting had relinquished its right of veto over Statute changes but had asked Council to look again at its proposals to ensure that Senate was at least consulted before changes were made relating to academic matters and student welfare. With the assistance of Professor Alisdair Gillespie of the Law School, a form of words was found that required Council to ‘give consideration’ to the views of Senate before making future changes. This, suggested Professor Gillespie, was the next best thing in the absence of a veto. The amendments were generally welcomed, though one senator pointed out that Council could still override the wishes of Senate if it was minded to do so. He believed that the result of all these changes gave too much power to Council and, with the abolition of Court, there was now no constitutional restraint on its actions. His, though, was very much a minority view and Senate voted overwhelmingly for the Statute changes.
Then came reports on University KPIs, and on revised arrangements for the conferral of PhDs (see below). Finally, approval was given to the new title of the Department of Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Innovation, and a recommendation for the appointment of two Professors Emeritus (names embargoed, but they know who they are).