GCU staff and students brought their campaign for an independent investigation of the events surrounding the university’s New York hub, to Holyrood MSPs today.
Concerned MSPs, including the presiding officer had already been in touch with members of GCU staff regarding staff concerns about the expenditure of £10 million, including salaries of £250,000 plus for one staff member and over £100,000 for another. It is believed that there are four full-time staff employed at the hub, despite the campus having no students, and the hearing for the licence application being postponed yet again to the 22nd May, with a decision ‘likely to be taken by the Board of Regents in early June’
The delegation of union representatives from all campus unions, and notably also from the Students’ Association explained their concerns to MSPs and asked for their support for an independent inquiry.
A spokeswoman for the GCU Students Association said “Our Executive committee is deeply concerned at this stage about the future to recover expenditure from the GCU New York campus and the level of expenditure so far. This is particularly hard to take given the funding cuts we face on our Glasgow campus”.
Dr Nick McKerrell, Combined Union Convenor, said:
“Staff are up in arms over the whole GCU New York project. This unnecessary extravagance has taken place when staff in Glasgow face the age of austerity. It is now three years behind schedule and has cost £10 million. This is despite not one student crossing the threshold as the application for a teaching licence has not been awarded. It looks like no proper due diligence was done initially, leaving us in this untenable situation. Both staff and students are now united in their calls for an independent investigation. There are serious financial questions to be answered.”
In a message to staff yesterday, GCU Principal Professor Pamela Gillies indicated that the campus once up and running would no longer be named a University, but would rather have the name of Glasgow Caledonian New York College, ‘in line with naming of other higher education institutions in the USA’ . Professor Gillies stated that ‘the application process has been rigorous and we have complied thoroughly with each aspect. This has included our investment in premises designed to meet the requirements of NYSED, as part of our application’. She also stated that ‘there was no possibility of a licence without our holding suitable educational premises’, adding ‘we are now at a very advanced stage of NYSED’s application process with some encouraging signs of a good outcome, although nothing can be assumed’.
The University Court has been notably silent on the issue of GCU New York. This year the standard practice of a meeting for all staff to question the Chair, lay governors and staff governors was replaced by a chance for staff to chat over lunch with Court members. Invitations to Court representatives to attend and observe all staff meetings have not been taken up. Staff are now hoping that the Court will talk to staff regarding their concerns about the continuing situation at our New York hub.
In 1998 a report by the Comptroller and Auditor General into events at that time in GCU referred to the need for continual critical scrutiny by Court of management actions. In the words of the report, which still merit attention.
“The Council were concerned that, where lay governors are greatly dependent on the executive for information, there is a danger of creating a culture in which the governing body place too much reliance on such information without being in a position to critically evaluate it. In such cases senior management may effectively control the form and content of how issues are presented and limit and restrict any challenge from lay governors. The Council concluded that in a number of instances at the University the Court did not receive adequate information”.
It is important that the Court makes it clear what the case is for the New York hub and how their monitoring has been carried out.