President 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.
National Union of Students Scotland says the emails “suggest a leader who is out of touch with the national picture, Glasgow University students and even his own SRC’s policies.”
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 3×9 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.
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.
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”
 SRC Constitution
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)