Unions warn university against a vote of no confidence

A majority of voters in a Surrey University College Union (UCU) survey supported holding a vote of no confidence in the vice-chancellor, following proposed staff cuts.

Figures from an indicative survey show that 92% are in favor of the vote, while another 96% are in favor of a vote for the board.

Surrey UCU has campaigned against redundancies and financial redundancy payments proposed by the university in March.

A spokesperson for the University of Surrey said it is “not immune to the unprecedented financial pressures facing the UK higher education sector”.

Vice Chancellor Professor Max Lu has previously said the university would have to cut staff and assets as part of cost savings.

An open letter from UCU on April 11 said the university was trying to turn a “£10 million deficit” into a “£10 million surplus”.

‘Historical borrowing’

A union spokesperson said staff felt they had been “forced” into redundancy or that they “felt their hand was being forced”.

High inflation, rising energy bills and general pressure on living costs were cited by Mr Lu as reasons why the university had to reduce its expenses.

But the UCU has argued that the institution’s poor financial management of “historic borrowing and significant spending on multi-million pound projects” has undermined this.

Recent developments include the 2021 opening of the Surrey Institute for People-Centred AI and the launch of a new medical school with a 2024 intake.

According to the Local Democracy Reporting Service, more than 90% of the university’s income was borrowed externally, placing it second in Britain in 2021-2022.

The union will meet on April 22 to discuss next steps.

A university spokesperson said they “hoped to avoid compulsory redundancies”.

“We are looking at a variety of measures to increase revenues and cut costs, including offering voluntary redundancy to some colleagues,” she added.

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