Revealed: Manchester Uni decided to ignore referendum result weeks before the vote
Some board members said it ‘could give the impression that the board had not given sufficient consideration to issues raised’
Manchester Uni decided to ignore the result of this year’s referendum of no confidence weeks before the vote even took place, The Manchester Tab can reveal.
Thousands of students this year voted in a university-wide referendum that they no longer had confidence in Vice Chancellor Nancy Rothwell and her senior management by an 89 per cent margin.
The uni board of governors rejected the referendum and said they had full confidence in senior management. Yet this decision was made in a board meeting on the 24th of Feburary more than two weeks before the referendum result was announced on the 12th of March.
Minutes from that meeting state the “board unanimously confirmed its full confidence in the leadership of the President and Vice Chancellor and the senior team and supported issuing of a statement to this effect”.
In a later meeting after the referendum, some board members noted this decision could “give the impression that the board had not given sufficient consideration to issues raised and therefore that the board had not struck the right balance between critical challenge to and support for the senior leadership.”
One of the organisers of the referendum Joel Wall called the news a “disgrace”.
“This shows what we always knew, that the uni doesn’t care about students opinions and completely discredits their argument that they rejected the referendum due to turnout. They never knew the turnout beforehand and they had voted to reject no matter what happened.
“The uni can claim to care and claim to listen to students but it’s never been more blatant that they couldn’t care less”.
A University of Manchester spokesperson told The Tab “the Board gave consideration to a number of scenarios”. When we asked what these others scenarios were and if any statements had been drafted, the spokesperson declined to comment further.
A University of Manchester spokesperson said: “As is absolutely normal on such occasions, the Board gave consideration to a number of scenarios and prepared a draft statement in advance. Clearly the details of that statement were only confirmed once the outcome of the referendum was actually known, not before. The University remains focused on delivering the best learning experience possible and supporting the wellbeing of our students, staff and wider local community. Students are at the heart of our University.”
At the time of the referendum result, the Board of Governors said: “We have seen the result of the student referendum and note that the turnout was 13% of our student population.
“The Board has been fully briefed throughout the period of the pandemic, holding additional meetings as and when required. Having been rigorous in holding the senior leadership to account, the unanimous position of the Board is that we have full confidence in them to lead the University forward, and in particular in Nancy Rothwell, who has led the University with vision, compassion and distinction for the past 10 years.
“The last year has been unprecedented for this University, the HE sector and wider society. None of this has been easy for our students or staff. The Board recognise that students have not had the experience they would have hoped for and have had to deal with unprecedented, difficult and rapidly changing circumstances. The Board also appreciates that staff have had to adapt quickly and deal with many uncertainties and have done so with remarkable success. Collectively, as a University we have been faced with difficult choices and decisions, and unpredictable events. Whilst our senior leaders haven’t got everything right, where that has been the case, they have led from the front by apologising and have always taken action to ensure lessons are learnt and improvements are made.
“The University remains focused on delivering the best learning experience possible and supporting the wellbeing of our students, staff and wider local community. Students are at the heart of our University.”