Dear UCL students,
Yesterday you will have received an email from Rex Knight, intervening explicitly in the referendum campaign. Whatever your views on the referendum, it is shocking that UCL managers have used the resources of the College to interfere in the democratic process.
We are calling for a vote of no confidence in Malcolm Grant, because we believe that the way he is running UCL is detrimental to our ethical and academic values as a historically egalitarian university; and because we believe that Grant’s record in office – here and on a national level – has betrayed the students and staff he is supposed to represent.
In his email, Rex Knight claimed that he “fully supported” the right of students to have a debate on Malcolm Grant’s record. This is nonsense. UCL management has repeatedly attempted to stop students from ever having the right to vote on it, resorting to threats, intimidation and backroom interferences with UCLU’s democratic processes. Just before Christmas, Knight openly threatened the union with budget cuts if they tried to let students vote.
Knight claimed that our concerns about cuts to UCL departments and staff are unfounded. This is also wrong. To name only three instances:
- In 2009-10, the modern languages departments were merged without any meaningful student input, losing support staff and attacking departmental autonomy.
- At the same time, Malcolm Grant’s administration attempted to implement a 10.4% cut to the Faculty of Life Sciences, including academic and support staff redundancies
- Last year, tutorials in the English Department were effectively halved, undermining one of the main reasons that most students applied to the course.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Grant has played a leading role in lobbying for higher tuition fees at a national level, and has refused to campaign against the massive teaching grant cuts imposed by government.
Rex Knight accuses us of lying when we say that Malcolm Grant is not really committed to paying the London Living Wage. The LLW is the basic minimum required to survive in London, as calculated by the mayor’s office. After years of campaigning, Grant was embarrassed into making a vague promise to pay it, after a story hit the front page of the Evening Standard. That was fifteen months ago. Since then, the LLW has not been implemented, and Grant has outsourced all of UCL’s remaining cleaning staff – taking their pensions and sick pay away. Rex Knight’s claim is itself a lie.
Meanwhile, Malcolm Grant has been drawing huge salaries, peaking at £404,000 two years ago, and has tripled the number of six-figure salaried staff at UCL to 347.
In December, Malcolm Grant was appointed as the Chair of the NHS Commissioning Board, with responsibility for NHS England’s nearly £100bn budget (while staying on at UCL, working part-time). This was not “evidence of the high regard in which Grant is held”, as Knight claims – it is quite the opposite: Grant was a long way down the list of candidates for the post, and was appointed by a tiny margin by the Health Select Committee, with half the committee voting against his appointment. Rosie Cooper MP, a prominent member of the committee, has described it as follows:
“Professor Grant’s appearance at the Health Select Committee was an exposition of a man who did not have a clue about what the job entails; he failed to demonstrate any passion for the NHS; abjectly failed to substantiate his experience for the role or understanding of the NHS.”
We believe that it is inappropriate for Malcolm Grant to take up this position, in doing so associating UCL with the government’s controversial health reforms and weakening his commitment to the College.
The case that supporters of Malcolm Grant are making about his good record at UCL is a mixture of outright falsehoods, half-truths and hyperbole. For instance, Knight claims that UCL has moved up the rankings since Grant’s appointment: this isn’t true. The data quoted in Rex Knight’s letter about Shanghai Jiao Tong League Table is inaccurate: UCL is in fact at the same ranking as it was when Grant arrived in 2003 (at number 20).
UCL was a world-leading university long before Grant’s arrival and it is dishonest to imply otherwise. Suggesting that UCL was not achieving this level of excellence in research and teaching before 2003 is insulting to the staff and students who have spent decades here making UCL what it is.
It is entirely up to you as to how you vote. We will vote no to Question One, and we hope you join us in doing so.
Vote now at https://elections.uclu.org BEFORE 2pm on Thursday 26th Jan.
The No Confidence Campaign
This post and all material on this website is the stated view of the No Confidence campaign and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of other organisations or individuals.