The decision regarding control of the consultation, which took place during a February 16 meeting of Court and is said to be aimed at gathering the views of students, confirmed that whilst a consultation will take place with the student body before planned course closures take effect, it will be SMG appointees themselves who chair it.
The panel, which will be composed of three members in total, is to include a lay member of court directly appointed by Senior Management, a member of the SMG itself, and a senior academic. The individuals who will be drafted in to fill these seats have not yet been confirmed by the University.
The move to allow the SMG to regulate its own consultation has raised questions as to the impartiality of the board, with fears that the consultation on SMG plans will also be open to selective SMG interpretation and therefore influence from above.
The University Court, who passed the motion, has only two student representatives on its 25-member panel, both of whom act on behalf of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC). Tommy Gore, SRC President and one of students’ two sitting members, explained that despite lay members of Court not being members of the SMG, but rather their appointees, the SRC had significant concerns regarding the transparency of the consultation process.
He said: “I think more information is required to enable the consultation to be open and transparent about the affected areas… there are major issues with the fact that the Cost Reduction Plan was a paper brought to Court by SMG, and the consultation panels are chaired by SMG; we’ve raised these concerns and will continue to push the University on this issue.
“We urge the University to ensure an open and transparent consultation process that involves staff and students in the affected areas as well as the SRC, and for students and staff in these affected areas to engage with the process and to make their case.”
An email circulated to students on February 17, signed by Convener of Court David Ross and Principal Anton Muscatelli, stated that ‘full details’ of the consultation process would be made available to students of the University within 10 days of the email being sent, although the method of publication – MyGlasgow – is presently blocked from access by students.
In the email, David Ross and Anton Muscatelli explained that: “[A proposed Court paper] asked that a number of consultation processes be established to properly test and evidence the proposals.
“Court agreed and stated its wish that the consultations should be inclusive, transparent and fully engage with the students and staff potentially affected by the proposals, and that independent members of Court should be represented in the detail of the consultation process.
“From the outset of this exercise, Court have fully appreciated that difficult decisions have to be made. Court will make these decisions in the best interests of Glasgow University."
A University of Glasgow spokesman explained their reasoning behind the consultation.
He said: “After a Senior Management Group review of all aspects of our work, the University Court has agreed to a consultation being carried out into a number of academic areas.”
The February 16 Court meeting also reaffirmed its commitment to £20m of cuts with an overall strategic aim.
The University spokesman continued: “The areas affected have been identified within the context of the University meeting its strategic ambitions.”
SRC President, Tommy Gore, questioned the SMG’s current plans.
He said: “The SRC appreciates that the University is in a difficult position with regards to funding, and that cost savings have to be made; but does it make sense to cut areas that are purportedly making a financial contribution?”
Full details of the upcoming SMG consultation are expected to be released before the end of February.