As part of Black History Month, the STUC Black Workers’ Committee present the inaugral Jane Smeal Memorial Lecture, Friday 2 October, 8pm – 9pm at the Menzies Hotel in Glasgow. Speaker Professor Geoff Palmer will consider Scotland’s link with the slave trade and the legacy that this leaves on modern day Scotland. Admission Free. To register email Helen Martin: email@example.com
In response to ever more strident attacks on the Higher Education Governance Bill by university principals, some university rectors and business lobbyists the Institute of Directors, UCU Scotland President Douglas Chalmers wrote a joint letter along with NUS Scotland to the Herald newspaper. The letter outlined both UCU and NUS Scotland’s support for making the governance of our universities more democratic. The text of the published letter is below:
It is often quoted that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Possibly not so, but what is definitely true is that the views on university governance in The Herald this week from the polar extremes of, on one hand, the Institute of Directors (“Bosses attack bid to change ways universities are run”, The Herald, September 16) and on the other, the exiled whistle-blower Edward Snowden (“Snowden fears ‘threat to university autonomy’”, The Herald, September 15), are both wrong when it comes to reforming the governance of our universities.
UCU, the union for academic and related university staff, and NUS Scotland representing the student body both fully support plans to make our universities more democratic and accountable. The proposals to have elected chairs of governing bodies and trade union and student nominees on governing bodies – first mooted in the review carried out by Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski (“University head claims institutions remain in Middle Ages”, The Herald, September 14), carried forward in the HE Governance bill, and supported by both the governing and main opposition party – are worthy of support.
It is no great surprise that the Institute of Directors supports the status quo when so many of the current court members and senior governors come from an almost homogeneous business or professional background. Our universities are not businesses. They are educational institutions and their governance arrangements should reflect both this and the funding received of more than £1 billion annually from the public purse.
Legislating for an elected chair would bring back the democratic tradition in our ancient universities, returning a tradition of the chair of court having a mandate from the whole university community rather than simply being a titular figure. The simple and inescapable truth is that, even where elected rectors exist, there still exists a senior governor or convenor of court— unelected, and appointed from within the governing body—carrying out a role that would be expected of a chair. Far from abolishing the role of rector, the proposals would ensure that elected chairs are genuinely entrusted with the leadership of the governing body.
We also see the straw man of the bill being a risk to universities’ charitable status being raised by university principals. Demonstrably not so when the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator’s own submission on the bill makes clear that they don’t see a risk to charitable status. It is perhaps time our university principals themselves started to act in a more charitable manner in the debate. The figures being thrown around in recent weeks simply have no basis in reality. It has been a matter of regret to both our organisations that the debate around reform has been so intemperate.
The governance bill is a genuine opportunity to make the governance of Scotland’s universities more democratic, transparent and accountable. These principles, in the form of elected chairs of governing bodies in all universities – elected by all staff and all students – and student and trade union nominees having guaranteed positions on court are ones that UCU Scotland and NUS Scotland are proud to support.
Douglas Chalmers , President, UCU Scotland, 227 Ingram Street, Glasgow; Vonnie Sandlan, President, and Emily Beever, Women’s Officer, NUS Scotland, 1 Papermill Wynd, McDonald Road, Edinburgh.
Colleagues, please read on for a message from Robina Qureshi, Director of Positive Action in Housing.
Europe’s growing refugee crisis and what you can do
We have today written to the First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, to request that the Scottish Government adds to her earlier statement today in supporting a UK wide relocation plan. We have asked the First Minister to publicly state that that Scotland would be prepared to take in refugees to Scotland equating to 1% of its population under a UK wide relocation plan.
Our charity and its supporters are deeply concerned about the growing refugee crisis. We are being inundated with offers from people wanting to give accommodation and donations to destitute refugees and assist those trying to enter the UK. People are desperate to assist in any way possible: to open the doors of their homes for shelter and to donate money and essential items in response to the images and stories coming from Calais, from Austria and other places across Europe. This goes against the “received wisdom” of the Daily Mail and similar media with their daily diatribes against refugees, migrants and minority ethnic communities creating prejudice and divisions in our communities.
There is an expressed desire for civic society and individuals to contribute in some way. In response, we are putting in place a range of actions to engage our members, supporters and wider society. We have just set up an emergency appeal. This appeal will distribute direct, targeted humanitarian crisis support for refugees in Calais and elsewhere, to aid the provision of food, shelter, clothing, medical supplies with an emphasis on the needs of children and similar humanitarian purposes.
The position of the UK government in trying to barricade out refugees is shameful, short-sighted and untenable. For decades developing countries have taken in the bulk of the world’s refugees while Europe erects borders to keep out the refugees it helped to create. 350,000 refugees have travelled to Europe in 2015, mainly fleeing war and economic crisis. Around 2,500 are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean this year. Last week, the decomposing bodies of 71 Syrian refugees including four children were discovered in an abandoned truck near Vienna. It is impossible not to be moved by the images in this morning’s papers of the lifeless body of a Syrian toddler on a Turkish beach.
Germany is showing strong leadership by accepting 800,000 refugees into its borders. In contrast, Prime Minister David Cameron has now stated that the government could not accept “more and more” refugees. He would be referring to the UK taking in a pitiful 216 Syrian refugees from camps in Jordan and other neighbouring countries under the “vulnerable persons” relocation initiative since June 2014. The number of asylum applications to the UK has flat lined in recent years – there were 24,914 in 2014, a small figure given the world is in the grip of its worst refugee crisis since the Second World War.
We are now calling on our supporters to press for change and demand that the UK takes its fair share of refugees and implements a UK wide emergency relocation plan. We also believe that the Scottish government should expand upon its initial offer to participate in a hypothetical relocation plan by making a concrete and explicit commitment to accept 50,000 refugees into Scotland, 1% of Scotland’s population.
What you can do
Write to the Home Secretary and demand that Britain steps up to its obligations and implements a UK wide relocation plan to tackle the growing refugee crisis. Email Theresa May at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please copy your emails to email@example.com.
Write to the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP and request that she continue to put pressure on the UK government by signalling the Scottish Government’s willingness to take in 50,000 refugees to Scotland as part of a UK wide relocation plan. Please copy your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Give a donation now to our Refugee Crisis Appeal Europe: This appeal is set up in response to Europe’s growing refugee crisis whereby the UK government is blocking entry to refugees trying to enter the UK. Direct, targeted humanitarian emergency crisis grants for refugees in Calais and other European ports trying to reach Europe, to aid in the provision of food, shelter, clothing, medical supplies with an emphasis on the needs of children and similar humanitarian purposes. Every penny goes directly to refugees in Calais and elsewhere.
To donate regularly to our general work, email email@example.com
Offer accommodation to someone through our Lifeline Refugee Aid Service
Social media campaign: Tweet a picture of yourself/your family/colleague/friends with a sign saying #refugeeswelcome. Add it to your Facebook profile too.