Staff critical of university’s management
FEWER than 20% of academics at a Scottish university believe their managers are doing a good job.
A survey of staff at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) found just 19% said principal Professor Pamela Gillies and her senior management team “lead the university well”.
Only 14% agreed with the statement that managers “listen to and respond to the views of frontline staff”.
Some 33% said managers set out a clear vision of where the university is headed, while 20% or fewer felt recent changes had been handled well, were well planned and had been conducted at the right pace.
The staff survey marks the culmination of a difficult period for Glasgow Caledonian. In March last year, the university announced plans to axe up to 95 jobs as part an exercise to save £12 million over three years.
The university previously announced a controversial project to streamline its running, which saw a reduction in the number of academic schools from six to three.
Dr Nick McKerrell, convener of the university’s combined union committee, said the survey revealed the extent of staff anger.
“The results are very worrying,” he said. “As the combined union committee has warned for the last few years, the survey shows there is a significant gulf between senior management and the vast majority of the workforce.
“Although they are obviously committed to their job within the public service of higher education, the figures show that ordinary staff feel ignored by highly paid senior management who have carried through many controversial plans, including attempting to make 95 compulsory redundancies last year.
“With only 19% of staff thinking senior management lead the university well, serious questions have to be asked about the future of the current leadership.
“Unions on campus will be requesting a meeting with Court, the governing body of the university, to ask what they plan to do about the failures of GCU management reflected in the survey.”
However, Prof Gillies, who earns £211,000, pointed to many positives within the survey in an email to staff. She said: “The survey results show that staff are generally positive about the university with 92% saying they are interested in the university and it is more than just a job, 85% saying they generally enjoy their work, 84% saying they feel valued by colleagues … and 79% saying they receive regular and timely information about the university and its activities.
“However, there is also clear scope for improvement and the survey highlighted issues such as workload and bureaucracy, communications and co-operation, managing change and feeling valued, and job security.”
A spokeswoman for the university added: “Last year was an exceptional year within the university as well as in the external environment, so it was important to understand how people were feeling, and staff have been open and honest about the challenges change has brought.
“We have issues to tackle and we’re working to understand these and to act upon the important feedback received.”
The university issued 1496 surveys and 820 were completed, giving a 55% response rate.
21 November 2011: The Guardian
Dispatches from Saudi Arabia: the case for cross-cultural collaboration
Thousands of Saudi students come to pursue higher education in the UK, but we do to little to work in partnership and support university leaders there, says Professor Pamela Gillies
Just as Saturday’s sun was coming up, we arrived at King Khaled International Airport in Riyadh. As part of a small delegation travelling with the UK’s minister for universities and science, David Willetts, I was well aware of the strict adherence to certain cultural mores that prevailed in Saudi Arabia following my visit to King Faisal Hospital in Jeddah the previous year.
Here I was, however, travelling to the very heart of the kingdom watching a French woman opposite me struggling into her voluminous black abayah as the plane entered its final descent. I knew the British Council had organised for an abayah to be waiting in the hotel but it was the first of many surprises on our 24-hour visit to hear from a fellow female traveller that while it was of course important to show respect for the local culture in Riyadh I would find a more relaxed attitude than I might expect.
Alighting from the plane the slightly crumpled accompanying delegation was whisked through airport formalities. Our group included Professor Eric Thomas, vice-chancellor of Bristol University and president of Universities UK, Dr Joanna Newman, director of UK Higher Education International Unit, and Martin Dole, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, ably supported by Maddalaine Ansell of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills.
The very first thing that we all saw as we left the airport was the Princess Nora Bint Abdulrahman University, majestically rising from the desert. This, the largest university for women in the world, has the capacity to educate 40,000 female students on a purpose-built campus covering 14sq km with its own monorail system. A visit to it later in the day was the reason for my inclusion in the party as a female UK vice-chancellor. Although the university for women has had a long history producing generations of female teachers, this impressive campus development championed by the king will educate the next generation of women leaders and professionals for the nation across a wide range of disciplines: from health to education, business and social work.
It is an extraordinarily powerful symbol of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to the higher education and future employment of its women in a nation full of contradictions. While more than 50% of Saudi undergraduates are female only 13.5% are employed, the lowest rate in the world, and 20% of women are illiterate compared to 13% of men. Women will be able to vote in local elections from 2015 and there is clearly a commitment to changing their position in society, although the pace of change will be measured. The female UK delegation, suitably attired in abayahs, arrived in the middle of the day for our much-anticipated visit to the university. We were ushered inside and, now in an all-female environment, the abayahs were quickly shrugged off. We were privileged to meet Dr Huda Mohammed Saleh Al-Ameel, the rector of the university, and her impressive top team of vice-rectors and administrators.
Dr Huda is a leader of intellect with an obvious passion for education and a desire to create the best university for the teaching of women in the world. Her team’s energy, commitment and enthusiasm was infectious and they were frustrated that visits in recent years to the UK to seek partnerships to help them grow their curriculum, improve their quality assurance arrangements and upskill their staff with master’s and PhD qualifications had largely fallen on stony ground. We in the west may not find it easy to accept the restrictions that limit the opportunities for women in Saudi Arabia, but my visit certainly taught me that change is in the air. Perhaps we should not be so reluctant to work in partnership with leaders like Dr Huda, to support her in her educational task within her country. Perhaps for too long we have stayed at home expecting Saudi students to come to us.
And they do come to us in very large numbers. We have more than 20,000 students from Saudi Arabia in the UK at the present time, 16,000 on a special King Abdullah Scholarship programme. During his short visit, the very first of a UK minister for universities to the kingdom, David Willetts worked graciously and tirelessly to promote our higher education sector, its diversity and the quality of our further education colleges. In return, the Saudi minister for higher education expressed his desire for a greater commitment to collaboration, for more research and knowledge transfer agreements between our universities and for assistance in promoting world-class teaching.
There is no doubting the affinity between our nations, unexpectedly captured in an emotional exchange I had over lunch with a woman from the ministry. She described how, after entering the US after 9/11 with her three young children to resume her PhD studies at a university in Kansas, she had been treated with such aggression, hostility and distaste that she feared for her children’s safety and returned to her own country to complete her studies. She added that she had always felt welcomed and safe in the UK, and we agreed that if our UK students were encouraged to study, even for short periods of time in Saudi Arabia, this could only further our understanding of each other, encourage tolerance and dispel fear.
Yes, a surprising visit and leaving on the Sunday morning as the sun rose once again I knew for certain I, with Joanna and Maddalaine, would do all we could to find ways in the months ahead to give practical support to the women we had met who are providing educational opportunities for the many willing hearts in their care.
Professor Pamela Gillies, principal, Glasgow Caledonian University.
Comment: From the Guardian:From tamarindos
22 November 2011
While Professor Gilles eulogy to the wonders of Princess Noura University is, I am sure, very well intentioned, she seems to have been completely bedazzled by the ‘show’ rather than taking time out to discover the reality. But then again, what else could she have learned in a 24-hr trip, and why is the Guardian publishing it?
Having worked in the female part of a major University in Saudi Arabia, I can give a few answers as to why no (or few) UK universities will want to partner them.
Firstly, while there is no denying the passion, vision and commitment of those at the top, the nuts and bolts of university life are not even a pale reflection of that commitment.
Yes, for many women, education is an escape (and, incidently, a degree also increases her value in the marriage market!), but there is no evidence whatsoever of Professor Gilles statement that there is a ‘clear’ commitment to changing their role in society. How she can state that when even when the King has ‘pardoned’ the woman for her crime of driving she may still have to suffer 11 lashes – hello? What century are we in?
Agreed, the actions of some, should not deflect from the attitudes of others, and yes there are progressives in the Kingdom, King Abdullah is one, the Crown Prince Naif is not.
Returning to Education, the outward trappings that so delight professor Gilles – a monorail – wow! Every university must have one. Why not just allow women cars? Is detracting her from the paucity of the education here. Masters degrees are awarded on plagiarised work, in Preparatory Year projects the final exam pass marks are re-jigged so that ‘everyone’ passes – leaving teachers in the main university trying to teach subjects in English to students with little more than beginner level capability.
Management of these huge organisations is shocking. Just after I read this grovelling piece of prose, I was directed to another article about the same university in the Arab News (about as reliable as the Guardian) see http://arabnews.com/saudiarabia/article536850.ece which relates arbitrary and probably illegal sackings of university teachers.
No university chair in their right mind would want to be associated with any of these universities in Saudi, and could probably decide that after a visit of little more than 24 hours. Needless to say, this is a terrible tragedy for the many thousands of intelligent, motivated, committed and hard-working young ladies who seek education to better themselves and improve their country.
If the Guardian wants to print pieces about education in Saudi Arabia, at least have them written by people who either work there, or know the system, not some credulous academic who’s been bedazzled by facilities that probably won’t work in 3 months time.
8 Apr 2011: Glasgow Evening Times: Catriona Stewart
Silent bid to stop city uni job cuts
Staff and students have continued their protest against job threats at Glasgow Caledonian University.
Up to 95 posts face the axe as bosses look to save £12million by shedding jobs and cutting the university’s Effective Learning Centre.
More than 100 campaigners gathered outside a meeting led by GCU principal Pamela Gillies in a silent protest.
Dr Nick McKerrell, convener of the university’s combined union committee, said yesterday: “The unions at GCU held this silent protest to make sure senior management hear and see the opposition of staff to their plans.
“The announcement last week of which jobs could go has frightened staff. Management claim they want to hear alternatives. However they have refused to engage with the unions’ alternatives which would end the need for any redundancies.”
As told in the Evening Times, the university last week named the jobs at risk. The first 60 posts are from senior management, administrative and support services, and marketing and human resources.
The proposed cuts, which affect 6% of the university’s 1613 staff, would save £5m if implemented by July next year.
2 Apr 2011: Glasgow Evening Times: Catriona Stewart
Anger over city uni’s bid to close support centre
Glasgow Caledonian to axe facility in plan to save £12 million
Glasgow Caledonian University has announced plans to axe its Effective Learning Centre in a £12 million savings bid.
Union bosses said the loss of the centre – which gives extra support to students including help with essay writing and computer skills – will have a ‘dramatic’ effect.
Dr Nick McKerrell, convener of the university’s combined union committee, said: “There has been a very bad atmosphere among staff and students since this was announced. Students will see the effect of these cuts immediately – they are all frontline, vital services.
“The loss of the Effective Learning Centre will have a dramatic effect. It provides, if you like, an emergency service for students who need extra support”
A total of 37% of GCU students come from families where they are the first person to go to university, or with deprived backgrounds.
Dr McKerrell added: ” GCU prides itself on the high level of students from non-traditional backgrounds so it is foolish to cut their support”
The university also named the jobs that are at risk as part of the cost-cutting exercise. Bosses announced last month that 95 jobs are under threat with the first 60 posts facing the axe announced. Jobs most at risk are in senior management, administrative and support services, and marketing and human resources.
Outline proposals of how the cash will be saved from the university’s annual running costs have been published as part of a 90 days consultation. Unions have reacted with fury to the proposals claiming they will have an immediate negative effect on students’ education. GCU has said it needs to make savings of £12 million per year due to cuts in funding from central government. Bosses plan to merge the univerisity’s six existing schools into three larger ones to try to save an initial £5m.
The university currently has six academic departments – built and natural environment, Caledonian Business School, engineering and computing, health, life sciences, and law and social sciences.
New proposals would see these merged into health and life sciences; engineering, computing and the environment; and business, law and social sciences.
The latest proposed cuts which affect 6% of the university’s 1613 staff would save £5m if implemented by July 2012.
Davena Rankin, branch secretary of Unison at GCU said: “Our students deserve better and we will fight these cuts every step of the way”
A spokeswoman for Caledonian University said “No decisions have been made. We remain committed to achieving role reductions through voluntary means and we are considering every alternative”
University is told jobs cut premature
GOVERNMENT ministers have courted further controversy by attempting to influence the running of a second Scottish university.
Scotland’s skills minister Angela Constance called for Glasgow Caledonian University to halt plans to make up to 95 staff redundant until the result of Scotland’s election is known.
Ms Constance said it was inappropriate for the university to lay off staff before knowing how much money it will receive from the public purse in future.
The intervention comes just days after Michael Russell, the Education Secretary, called for a moratorium on cuts at Glasgow University until after Scottish elections in May.
His comments had provoked a backlash from David Caldwell, a former director of Universities Scotland, who warned that such comments threatened the autonomy of institutions.
However, speaking at the annual congress of the lecturers’ union, UCU Scotland, in Dundee, Ms Constance said: “What the Education Secretary said … was that there was a new funding settlement coming and that there should be a moratorium on cuts before then.
“In terms of Glasgow Caledonian University, I would repeat that message and remind [universities] the SNP has made a commitment to close any funding gap.”
Lesley McIntosh, president of UCU Scotland, welcomed the comments. “Universities are autonomous bodies, but when principals take decisions which are damaging to institutions then we welcome intervention from Government ministers,” she said.
“Principals are using the cuts to pursue their own narrow agenda which is damaging the traditional breadth of study at Scottish universities and impacting in a very negative way on staff.”
However, Glasgow Caledonian said the job losses related to cuts in university funding that had already taken place.
A spokeswoman said the Scottish Funding Council had already cut the university’s budget by 9%, equating to £7 million for this year alone.
The university also said that the proposed job cuts in administration were a consequence of a wider restructuring, which has seen the number of academic departments reduced.
Claire Baker, higher education spokeswoman for the Scottish Labour Party, accused Ms Constance of “rank hypocrisy”.
“For the minister to be criticising a university for introducing job cuts which are a direct result of SNP education cuts is absurd,” she said.
Meanwhile, on the issue of tuition fees, university principals have reiterated warnings to politicians that it is too early to rule out the introduction of a graduate contribution in Scotland.
They argue the funding gap between Scotland and England as a result of the introduction of higher tuition fees south of the Border may be much larger than the estimated £200m.
The Scottish Government believes the eventual gap could be as little as £93m if fees are raised for students from England who study here, making the introduction of any graduate contribution unnecessary.
However, Heriot-Watt University principal, Professor Steve Chapman, said: “We will have a gap which … may be more than £200m.
“To just assume that this is a £93m gap and it is dead easy to fix is just not realistic. It is not credible.”
He was backed up by Professor Sir Timothy O’Shea, principal of Edinburgh University and acting convener of Universities Scotland.
“We don’t know the size of the gap here. We will only know what the English figures are on July 12,” he said.
18 Mar 2011: Glasgow Herald Andrew Denholm
Lecturers stage strikes as national row over pension plans escalates
18 Mar 2011
HUNDREDS of academics from universities across Scotland have gone on strike in a national row over pensions.
Members of the University and College Union (UCU) staged the walkout over pension changes – which they argue will reduce benefits and increase costs.
The UCU said some 135,000 students at the universities of St Andrews, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Strathclyde, Heriot-Watt, Dundee, Stirling and Aberdeen have been affected.
Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, who joined the picket line at Glasgow University yesterday, said: “This action has highlighted the strength of feeling amongst staff when it comes to their pensions.
“I remain adamant this dispute can be resolved, but the employers have to drop their ridiculous approach of refusing to negotiate and sit down with us and work towards a resolution.
“There is action across the UK planned for the next week, but UCU members would rather be teaching students than stood on picket lines.”
However, university employers said they were “disappointed” the UCU had taken strike action instead of attending a formal meeting of the Universities Superannuation Scheme joint negotiating committee.
A spokesman for the Universities and Colleges Employers Association said: “UCU claims it is striking because the employers refuse to negotiate on pension changes.
“In fact, there have been three years of negotiations between the university employers and the UCU to agree to moderate changes designed to address financial pressures on the scheme.
“The retention of a final salary pension for all existing members is an exceptionally good benefit and this strike action is damaging to students and the sector as a whole. It is not the answer.”
Meanwhile, trade unions at Glasgow Caledonian University called a lunchtime rally to protest over plans by the university to axe up to 95 administrative jobs.
Unions outlined an alternative scheme to save money by reviewing senior managers’ pay and expenses. They also called for an end to spending on the university’s new London campus.
Dr Nick McKerrell, convenor of the combined campus trade unions, said: “We have presented concrete plans to management that could ensure there is not one compulsory redundancy.”
However, Professor Pamela Gillies, the principal of the university, insisted that the institution had to make savings of £12 million over the next three years because of public funding cuts.
She also stressed the job cuts were part of a longer-term project to streamline the running of the university, which has already seen a reduction in the number of academic schools from six to three.
Unity call to students in uni jobs fight
17 Mar 2011
Union bosses have called on lecturers and students to unite in fighting plans to axe 95 jobs at Glasgow Caledonian University.
A second rally will take place at lunchtime today at the university’s city centre campus in protest at plans to axe support and administration jobs, as part of cost-cutting plans.
Last Tuesday, more than two hundred people gathered at the Cowcaddens campus to show their opppsition to plans, which would see the existing six schools of study merge to become three.
Earlier this month, the university launched a 90-day consultation on proposals to restructure its existing six schools into three as part of cost-cutting measures.
Bosses said the move could see 95 administrative and support posts, out of a total staff of 1613, axed. Unions are now asking members and supporters to step up the campaign.
Dr Nick McKerrell, convener of Caledonian’s combined union committee, said: “The trade unions have presented concrete plans to management that could ensure there is not one compulsory redundancy at GCU let alone 95. We will be using our rally to report back to staff what our management’s response is.”
University chiefs said no academics would lose their jobs, no courses would be cut, and there would be no compulsory redundancies.
Principal Pamela Gillies said the university had already made savings of £5million. But a new report, shown to its ruling court, shows another £7m of savings are needed.
Dr McKerrell also revealed that, in response to management plans to axe 95 jobs, 95 “surprise guests” will appear at today’s rally.
Meanwhile, college and university lecturers will take part in a Scottish-wide strike, over changes to their pensions today.
University and College Union members at colleges and newer universities will join members already striking at 63 older universities after voting in favour of the walkouts, earlier this month.
The UCU said its members were angry about planned changes to two schemes. Lecturers at both Glasgow and Strathclyde universities will take part in the 24-hour walkout.
Principal defends plan to axe 95 jobs at university
THE head of a leading Scottish university has defended proposals to axe up to 95 jobs as part of a cost-cutting exercise.
In an interview with The Herald, Pamela Gillies, principal of Glasgow Caledonian University, said the institution had to make savings of £12 million over the next three years because of public funding cuts.
Ms Gillies, who earns £182,000, stressed the job cuts were also part of a longer-term project to streamline the running of the university, which has already seen a reduction in the number of academic schools from six to three.
And she went on to defend controversial initiatives to open a new satellite operation in London and to use a private company to recruit overseas students to study in Glasgow.
Ms Gillies’ comments came after The Herald revealed last week the university is looking to cut 95 posts in administration services, which includes the running of the library, information technology and student support and recruitment.
“Two years ago, we drew up plans with the university court because we foresaw that budgets were going to get tighter,” she said. “We decided we had to focus on our academic strengths and invest in what we were really good at and disinvest in things we were less good at.
“That resulted in the university moving from six schools down to three and, because of that, there is now some duplication in our support and administrative functions and we have identified posts that will have to go.”
Ms Gillies said the job cuts were made more pressing because of the current financial climate. However, she said the university would do everything in its power to avoid compulsory redundancies.
“The reality is that we are facing massive cuts and we have to deal with that by becoming more efficient, which is what we are doing,” she said. “We are very much hoping to avoid the compulsory redundancy route by looking at redeployment, voluntary severance, non-filling of vacancies and early retirement.”
Despite the cuts, Ms Gillies said Glasgow Caledonian has been extremely well managed financially and, she believes, has invested in a number of projects which are now bringing additional money into the university. The first is a controversial partnership with private company INTO to recruit and teach overseas students.
Under the arrangement, INTO recruits overseas students to a feeder college based at Glasgow Caledonian, where they do basic language and foundation courses and are then guaranteed entry to a degree programme.
The move provoked anger from campus unions who warned of the “creeping privatisation” of higher education.
Early indications also seemed to show the initiative was struggling to make a profit, with accounts showing a loss of £213,000 in 2007/08.
There was equal controversy over Glasgow Caledonian’s plan to open a £1m satellite office in London to offer postgraduate courses in business to overseas students with fees up to £12,000 a year. Unions said initial numbers were much lower than the university target and called for a renewed focus on courses in Glasgow.
Ms Gillies said the two initiatives would reap benefits for the university in future years. She said: “We have invested in areas that we feel we will gain a financial return from that we can feed back into our education and social missions in Glasgow and elsewhere.
“That is why we have invested in INTO college and it has been hugely successful, bringing us a £1.5m surplus year on year.
“Not only that, it has improved the cultural environment for all our students on campus because the international students have brought with them their culture and their language. The other major project we are investing in is GCU London, which, again, we believe has been a remarkable success and it will also bring money into the university which we can reinvest.”
The university hopes to have a surplus of at least £1m by next year from GCU London.
“These initiatives are all about creating extra revenue that will help build a sustainable future for the university and minimise any job losses in the future,” she added.
University splashes out £8000 to recruit just three students
A Scottish university spent nearly £8000 on a recruitment drive for its new London branch that resulted in places for just three students.
Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) spent £4500 renting a space at the upmarket Spitalfields Market in the capital on three consecutive Sundays in November.
More than £1000 was spent on hiring a campervan for the events, with the remaining expenditure going on travel and accommodation costs for the eight members of staff who attended.
However, a freedom of information request to the university shows that, so far, only three international students have been recruited as a result of the drive – although officials had hoped 100 would enrol by September 2010.
The revelations are the latest to hit the pioneering move by GCU to open a £1 million London branch to teach postgraduate courses in business and finance to overseas students.
The centre, located in Spitalfields, has been set up to take advantage of London’s lucrative market in overseas students, who are prepared to pay thousands of pounds for courses.
The university targeted 100 places in the first year, but so far only 38 students have been placed – even though the fees of up to £12,000 have been discounted in some courses.
The centre has also come under attack from campus unions in Glasgow, who argue the university should be investing in courses in Scotland.
However, the university says it is currently working through a recruitment process that should result in the institution hitting its student targets this year.
Dr Nick McKerrell, convenor of the GCU combined union committee, attacked the latest recruitment drive. “The throwing of money at the London campus at GCU must stop now. Millions of pounds has now been wasted on this damp squib,” he said.
“To do this at any time would be questionable, but to do it at a time of public spending cuts and austerity is reckless.”
However, a spokeswoman for GCU defended the decision and said it had raised the profile of the university in the London area.
“An integrated marketing campaign is helping raise the profile of GCU London with our target stakeholders and the activity at Spitalfields was a successful part of that – establishing GCU London in the area and building awareness of our unique new graduate university college,” she said.
“Three unconditional offers were made as a direct result of the activity at Spitalfields, more than covering any costs.”
The spokeswoman said the university had now received 191 applications for January entry and were confident they would hit their target of 100 students.
“GCU London is an ambitious new venture and, as such, will take time to establish itself and grow,” she added.
“We are in this for the long term and our commitment is to a quality educational experience endorsed by our students, graduates and business partners.
“It is appropriate that we invest in strategic marketing activity to support this.”
Announcing the London venture last year, Professor Pamela Gillies, the university’s principal, said officials hoped to recruit 100 students by September 2010, with numbers reaching 300 in subsequent years.
Although initial qualifications will be limited to business and finance the university hopes to extend the curriculum in future years to include courses in public health, retailing and the environment.
The university said the funding for the initiative would be allocated from the university’s surplus and not from its main public grant or private funding.
The new base will be staffed partly by lecturers who currently work at the university, as well as visiting professors recruited in London, who would also be required to teach in Glasgow.