I have been contacted by a number of constituents and members of staff at the University of Leeds expressing concern about the proposed University of Leeds statute revisions.
I am very aware of the strength of feeling on the part of staff and I have previously taken the matter up with Sir Alan Langlands, expressing the hope that matters could be resolved locally by negotiation with the University and College Union.
The proposed changes to the University’s Statutes (which set the terms and conditions for academic and related staff) worsen protections for staff, in particular by: adding an undefined catch-all category for dismissing staff for ‘Some Other Substantial Reason’ (SOSR), removing medically qualified chairs for panels deciding ill health dismissals and removing independent legally qualified chairs for most dismissal appeals.
The existing grounds for dismissing staff within the University of Leeds Statutes are: capability, ill health, misconduct or redundancy. The Union and many staff feel that introducing ‘some other substantial reason’ for dismissal would jeopardise academic freedom. SOSR, as a ground for dismissal, was explicitly excluded from University Statutes that arose from the Education Reform Act, 1988 and fundamental to academic endeavour is the freedom to propose and test new or controversial ideas and theories without the fear of losing one’s job.
The University has now submitted its proposed revised Statutes to the Privy Council for ratification, despite the current industrial dispute in which UCU members have taken, and have scheduled further, strike action.
I have now written to the three relevant Government ministers – Jo Johnson, Justin Greening and Andrea Leadsom – to make them aware of the representations I have received and I have signed the UCU petition.