Open University staff pass vote of no-confidence in vice-chancellor

Union members say position of Peter Horrocks is untenable after he said academics were ‘not teaching’

New Delhi, April 06, 2018: Staff at the Open University have passed a vote of no confidence in its vice-chancellor, Peter Horrocks.

Members of the institution’s branch of the University and College Union (UCU) said Horrocks’s position was untenable after he claimed the OU had allowed academics “to get away with not teaching for decades”.

Horrocks, who later apologised for the comments, had already angered staff over his plans to reduce the number of staff and cut courses, which were revealed in the Guardian last month.

The plans, which aim to save £100m from an annual budget of £420m, include a reduction in the number of courses, qualifications and modules of more than one third. A voluntary redundancy programme is due to be launched on 9 April according to reports published in theguardian.com

Lecturers say the proposals are so significant they will “destroy the OU as we know it” and reduce it to “a digital content provider”.

The UCU says Horrocks no longer commands the respect or authority of staff or the university council.

At an emergency meeting on Thursday, members passed a motion which said: “This general meeting has no confidence in our current vice-chancellor, or in his plans and intentions for the future of our university.

“On the basis of recent events, he has shown that he does not understand the university’s teaching model, nor the importance of the OU’s research base. We believe the best way of avoiding damage to the public image of the OU is for the VC to step down as soon as possible. We therefore call upon the vice-chancellor to resign.”

Lydia Richards, a regional official for the UCU, said it was time for “a change at the top” and a halt to the cuts.

She said: “Staff have made it quite clear what they think about the vice-chancellor’s recent behaviour. The Open University is a magnificent institution and it needs someone at the helm who understands its unique position and who will talk up its brilliant staff.”

An OU spokesman said the university was midway through an “ambitious programme to transform the way we teach and support our students”.

He said: “The plans have sparked a lively internal debate as well as a degree of concern. We can confirm that these concerns will be discussed more thoroughly at a special meeting of the university council and later at the OU’s academic governing body, the senate.”

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