UCL academics call for vote of no confidence in Provost

They’re worried about plans for expansion


UCL Provost, Michael Arthur, appears to be in serious trouble after several senior academics at UCL have come out in favour of a vote of no confidence in the management.

The news comes as an increasingly displeased academic body have publicly voiced their concerns about UCL’s massive plans for expansion, citing the massive increase in the student body, lack of adequate teaching space, and increasing focus on UCL as a financial institution (as opposed to an academic one) as cause for concern.

Michael Arthur, UCL Provost

Michael Arthur, UCL Provost

Speaking to the Financial Times, several academics have revealed increasing levels of resentment amongst UCL staff. In a memo sent to over 1,200 professors staff were called on to “protect scholarship and teaching” and several email exchanges revealed concerns about “the threat to academic scholarship at UCL”. One academic even complained that “UCL is being turned into a polytechnic from one of the world’s top research universities” due to management’s drive for expansion without making up for it in terms of teaching quality.

UCL has also been denied a top raking in the Teaching Excellence Framework, which means it will not be allowed to raise tuition fees. Frustrated academics claim this is yet again a result of expansion with no regard for scholarship.

Mere months ago Michael Arthur told a group of over 200 academics that the university was “barely financially stable” following a £280m loan to fund the mammoth UCL East project.

The site of the old Olympic Village will become the new UCL Stratford Campus

The site of the old Olympic Village will become the new UCL Stratford Campus

Despite financial turmoil UCL managed to spend £60m on the research facility Clare Hall, located an hour away from the Bloomsbury campus. UCL claims that the decision to purchase Clare Hall was “consulted upon and approved by UCL council according to policy” however academics maintain that it was bought without the full consultation of the governing council.

The contentious issue of the departure of Raymond MacAllister – director of the Faculty of Medicine – a professor with a 96% approval rating was also highlighted. In a memo given to the FT Prof. MacAllister claimed that his contract was not renewed due to his unwillingness to implement budget cuts. “The dean has been prodding me to get staff to accept retirement or severance or redundancy,” he wrote in a memo on the 13th of November, ““I was never prepared to ruin people’s working lives by becoming a five-and-a-half-percenter,” a reference to UCL’s 5.5% operating surplus.

Whilst academics from the faculty did seek clarification regarding Prof. MacAllister’s departure, Dame DeAnne Julius, chair of the governing council said that decisions had been “delegated” to the Provost. Dame DeAnne also rejected a request for a meeting between herself and the academic body, but instead offered a consultation with her deputy, Diana Warwick.