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Stuart Ritchie, Glasgow University SRC PresidentPresident of the Glasgow University Students’ Representative Council, Stuart Ritchie, is again the subject of controversy surrounding his relationship with the university and his colleagues at the SRC. Emails released on 28th October by qmunicate magazine show that Ritchie argued on internal committees for a higher rate of fees for students.

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Rest of UK (RUK) fees

Emails made public via a Freedom of Information request to the university, reveal that he personally advocated for the university to charge students from the rest of the UK (RUK) fees of £9,000 per year, with the total cost of a degree capped at £27,000. This is despite publicly reiterating the SRC’s statement that it is an “anti-fees organisation" saying on the day of the announcement that "we therefore condemn the fee increase at a base level”.

In an email exchange with Ritchie, Glasgow University Corporate Communications boss Susan Stewart expressed her disappointment with the SRC’s press release on RUK fees:

Kind of disappointed, Stuart, had hoped for a more positive tone from SRC. [...] Especially disappointing since I know you were one of the people on [the] working group arguing for the 9k position. [...] I understand your need to play to/placate your various constituencies, but your release is far more negative than I’d expected.

The SRC press release was in response to the University’s announcement that RUK fees would be set at £6,750 per year, with all students entering in first year receiving a £1,000 bursary. In total, a degree would cost no more than £26,000.

Ritchie justified his position in similar terms, and said that even his colleagues on the SRC Executive disagreed with him on RUK fees:

Whilst I think that’s fair. There are lots of people on campus who will expect us to be outraged that we are charging anything like 26k. That includes the rest of the exec.

I seriously don’t think I had any option. Particularly when you consider the botched PR job you guys did on the hive. If I sound chummy with the uni am toast.

To be frank even if the group had been persuaded To go to 3x9 I would have released a statement saying I was disappointed with the decision.

See you tomorrow

NUS Scotland President, Robin Parker, told the Glasgow Guardian that Ritchie’s behaviour was that of “a president who thinks he's untouchable and entirely unaccountable to his own students.” He went on to say that Ritchie’s comments on RUK fees “suggest a leader who is out of touch with the national picture, Glasgow University students and even his own SRC's policies.”

The NUS leader also highlighted the damage that Ritchie’s lobbying for £9k fees meant to the national campaign:

The worst thing is that these actions not only damage the hard work of Glasgow students in campaigning against the introduction of tuition fees, but he is also risking damage to our national work to oppose this unfair system. I'm sure Glasgow students will reflect very seriously on that.

Sources on the SRC Council say that the SRC Constitution provides no formal mechanism for a vote of no confidence, but Ritchie could be open to complaints submitted through the SRC’s Complaints Procedure. This procedure applies to breaches of the Code of Conduct laid out in Schedule 3 of the Constitution.

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Relationship with university management

The same email release contains Ritchie’s dialogue with Secretary of Court David Newall about an open meeting with the Principal. The exchange adds to accusations that Ritchie is putting his relationship with university management above his role as spokesperson for the 26,000 students of the University. He advises the Principal on how the occasion might best be formatted to show management in a favourable light by having students submit questions before the event starts.

An open meeting with the Principal was part of an agreement made to voluntarily end the conclusion of the Hetherington Occupation and was scheduled to take place some time in October. As of 29th October, a date has not been announced.

This is just one of several recent headlines suggesting that the President has been closer to senior management than to his own colleagues on the SRC executive. A similar story earlier this month, showed Ritchie attempting to exclude Deputy President Iain Smith from discussions relating to the new postgraduate social space:

Let’s try and meet more often – without Iain might be a good idea. I don’t always like the media man who lives [...] at the QMU to know everything under discussion.

The SRC’s full council and council committee have both met twice in the past two weeks and recently elected a number of new members. It remains to be seen if the Council will be convened to discuss Ritchie’s conduct. Follow our website, twitter or facebook for updates.

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See also

Glasgow Guardian, October 9 2011

"qmunicate FoI reveals tensions among SRC Sabbatical Officers"

qmunicate, October 28 2011

"GUSRC President didn’t fight for lower RUK fees"

[1] 8th August 2011 - SRC Press Release condemning the Scottish government’s plans to allow universities to raise fees for non-Scottish students.

[2] September 28 2011 - SRC press release on Glasgow University fees announcement.

[3] October 29 - NUS response to Stuart Ritchie's stance on RUK fees

[4] SRC Constitution

[5] FoI F0176962 Response

Appendix A: Emails between David Newall and Stuart Ritchie

Appendix A1: Student Lifecycle Project Progress Update - 4th August 2011

Appendix A2: SLP/SRC MyCampus Guide

Appendix A3: Review of Higher Education Governance - Call for Evidence

Appendix A4: John Mac construction plans emails

Appendix A5 (John McIntyre Building construction plans draft)

Appendix B: Emails between Susan Stewart and Stewart Ritchie (September 1, 2011 - September 28, 2011)


6 replies on “Ritchie: chummy with the uni, toasty with students”

Dominika Svecova says:

a query from an European university:

“When will the Senior Management at Glasgow stand for re-election”? All this

http://glasgowguardian.co.uk/news/chummy-and-toasty/

and this

http://glasgowguardian.co.uk/news/language-diplomas-suspended/

surely means that they will experience a total election debacle…

Andre Martine says:

Hey Guardian,
Just a minor thing, but why did you feel it appropriate to lead with the NUS’ response to this?

OldGraduateandStaff says:

Its a body representing many students in Scotland in general, though not Glasgow Uni Students. To be honest, in response to stories about dishonesty concerning the interests of students the person at the GU you would go to for quotes about the wider political context/concerns would be…. the SRC President.

Unfortunately in this situation he IS the story.

Who do you think would be better to quote from? A random GU student wouldn’t hold any weight really.

$18579048 says:

I think there’s an important distinction to be made between the practical reality and the ideology behind the fees. If I believed that there should have been no fees, and were the SRC President, then I’d have been in a tough position. Given that, by this point, all of our rivals and most universities in the country had set £27,000 fees, I’d have looked utterly stupid to the management that I had to work in future months with by refusing to budge on the no-fees argument. If, however, I realised that high fees were inevitable, it’d have then been up to me to work out the best way to charge these fees for student recruitment and to fill the financial gap that is forthcoming, and give my opinions. Some legitimately believe that 9000 x 3 is a ‘better’ way to charge 27,000 for the university and to ensure applicants. This doesn’t mean they support the idea of fees. Perhaps a more ‘honest’ press release would have been to stress the inevitability of such a situation, despite being against one’s ethos, but that to refuse to work with the university helps no-one. If anyone believes that this sort of thing does not go on in PLCs across the country, they have another thing coming after graduation. It seems as if the language here is making a relatively minor problem look like a crisis.

OldGraduateandStaff says:

Then tell people that. Don’t lie.

$18579048 says:

…and get torn apart by several factions for giving ‘tacit approval’ to the higher fees scheme (factions that seem oblivious to the fact that the teaching grant has been severely cut, and would rather take their anger out on the University than the national policy makers)? Sounds like a lose-lose to me.

I was, a few years ago, a supporter of some form of fees. Back then, the idea behind fees was that we could offer more time and attention to students and give a better education for it. That’s not the same as having to charge as much as possible to meet as much of the short-fall, and the room for manoeuvre has as a result been cut accordingly. It’s a poor attempt to keep on side with both the management and the students, sure, but the President was hardly in the best of positions on this one to begin with.

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