UoM Vice Chancellor admits ‘there’s no way to make 40,000 students happy’ after strikes

‘The contract is to deliver a degree’ – not an education?


Members of the University of Manchester's senior management team have said to students they are only contractually obliged to provide a degree, as opposed to a well-rounded education, as well as admitting "there's no way to make 40,000 students happy" after the UCU strikes.

The meeting which took place yesterday between the senior management team and a group of students, who all study social sciences at the university, was organised to discuss the handling of the UCU pension dispute.

The members of staff present were: Nancy Rothwell (Vice Chancellor), Professor Luke Georghiou (Deputy President/Deputy Vice-Chancellor) and Professor Clive Agnew (Vice President of Teaching, Learning and Students).

The Vice Chancellor outlined, this was a meeting for students to tell the administration "things you don’t like", "things you do like", "things we should be doing that we are not", "things that we shouldn’t be doing that we are".

They were asked how they could justify their rejection of student’s appeal for financial compensation after losing out on teaching time due to the strikes in light of the Consumer Rights Act of 2015, and whether Nancy Rothwell would be resigning from her post as Vice Chancellor.

Nancy Rothwell, clarified that she "wasn’t planning on resigning" which was followed up by Professor Clive Agnew’s statement that "the contract is to deliver a degree. That is the focus." This prompted a student to ask "and not our education?" No answer was given.

Agnew’s statement was read by the room to insinuate that the degree itself is their only responsibility, not the quality of student’s educational experience.

When asked what the additional money would be spent on – as Nancy Rothwell had previously stated this money was intended to be used to benefit students, focussing on wellbeing – she said: "we are not looking into putting money into anything that is business as usual." This then prompted a student to ask "is our wellbeing not business as usual?"

However, students questioned why, if there was a deficit in student care, was this not being tackled by the administration with funds already allocated to mental health provisions?

When the meeting ended, students claimed that their questions had been left unanswered and they reported that the Vice Chancellor "looked flustered and began talking over people mid-question" before ushering them out of the room.

The meeting was branded by the students as unproductive and the administration incompetent. There was hope that planned meetings like these with separate schools of the university would provide students with the answers they wanted, rather than Rothwell’s only clear assertion that "there is no way we will make 40,000 students happy, no way."

James Ferguson, French and Business Management final year told The Tab Manchester: "I think the comment about any reimbursed fees not going back to the individuals (due to loans) is outrageous and should be picked up on.

"Any student in their right mind would take compensation off their loan just as quickly as direct financial reimbursement – where they pay the compensation to shouldn't come into it!"

A campaign has been launched to give the university of Manchester a one star rating on their Facebook page, and to make formal complaints to the university. If you wish to be involved and to take part in more meetings this week for students to air their concerns, join this Facebook group.

A spokesperson for the University of Manchester told The Tab Manchester "Our students obviously want to leave this university with the best degree possible. During their time with us, they have a wide range of opportunities to take advantage of to equip them with the skills and leadership qualities which will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

“We were one of the first universities in the UK to focus on the wider education of our students in terms of citizenship and social responsibility, through the development of our flagship Stellify programme which is open to all undergraduates. Combined with opportunities to take part in interdisciplinary study and collaborations, we create a valuable and diverse range of opportunities for our students.

“We will continue to work with staff to ensure that our students are not disadvantaged by the recent industrial action and that the award of degrees will take place as planned this year.”

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