Court retort

While this is not the place to debate the merits of one particular university court, it is important to point out that the personal opinion of Olga Wojtas of Queen Margaret University Court (Friends of The Scotsman, 22 January) is not that of the branch of the University and College Union which represents academic and related staff at that institution.

We support UCU Scotland’s position that self-regulation by courts is inadequate to safeguard the health of Higher Education in Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s Higher Education Bill is sensibly based on the proposals for greater transparency and accountability in university governance recommended by the von Prondzynski commission, on which all interests of university life – students, staff, principals, courts and rectors – were represented.

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The code of governance has already watered down these proposals in the interests of the courts.

University autonomy is not the same as unaccountable courts. Elections for court chairs, more representative court membership (including trade union representatives) and a strong commitment to academic freedom would certainly lead to more transparent governance.

Moreover, the von Prondzynski recommendation, which is absent from the bill, but would enhance university governance, is that staff and students should be represented on remuneration committees for senior managers, in order to scrutinise the escalating rise in principals’ pay.

We will be glad to meet Olga Wojtas to explain why we believe that university governance in Scotland needs to be improved and that the bill should be supported.

Eurig Scandrett

Branch president

University College Union Queen Margaret University