Now lecturers condemn new code for universities

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TWO of the largest teaching unions have become the latest group to attack a new code of governance for Scotland’s universities.

The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) said the draft code was “not fit for purpose”, while the University and College Union (UCU) called for it to be “ditched”.

Drafted by a steering group led by businessman Lord Smith of Kelvin, the proposed code promises to make university courts more representative and accountable.

But in submissions to today’s Holyrood education committee meeting, the EIS and the UCU have joined the National Union of Students (NUS) in condemning the document, which was published last month.

MSPs will today take evidence on the code, which is intended to be part of the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill, a shake-up of universities and colleges.

They will hear from the UCU and the NUS, as well as Lord Smith, the chairman of Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), who will take up a new position as chancellor of Strathclyde University later this year.

The new code of governance was proposed by Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, principal of Robert Gordon University (RGU) in Aberdeen, as part of a report he wrote last year for the Scottish Government.

The draft code recommends that staff and student input be taken into account during the appointment of a university principal.

It also proposes new requirements which will secure the involvement of staff and students in the appraisal of the principal, as well as measures to make the salaries of senior staff more open to public scrutiny.

But Mary Senior, UCU Scottish official, said: “This is a code written by managers for managers, which is unsurprising considering the lack of staff and student involvement in the steering group and code development.

“This draft code fails to implement even the most modest proposals of Prof von Prondzynski’s review of university governance.

“We will tell the education committee to scrap the code and come back with a version that gives staff and students a say within universities’ top decision-making bodies and ensures proper transparency in how our universities are run.”

The EIS submission states: “The EIS does not believe that the draft code is fit for this purpose, as it is merely a set of general principles with a few examples of good practice, with vague statements of openness, transparency and accountability.”

Last week, student leaders accused universities of ignoring their views during the drafting of the code.

The NUS and the presidents of 11 student associations wrote to SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell, convener of the education committee, calling for the code to be redrafted to reflect that tudents are “genuine and meaningful partners in university governance”.

A spokesman for the steering group said: “The group engaged in nearly 80 meetings with around 360 people, taking evidence directly from staff, students and members of university governing bodies.”

He added: “We are confident the draft code reflects the evidence taken from these people, but it remains a draft and we encourage people to produce more evidence before the consultation closes.”

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