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Scottish government must go further on university governance

14 January 2015 | last updated: 10 December 2015

UCU Scotland has today called on the Scottish government to introduce open and transparent elections for university governing bodies and for them to have a more representative mix of people.

The union laid out its plans in its response to a government consultation on governance in Scottish universities, which finishes at the end of the month. The Scottish Government is committed to bringing a bill forward based on the findings of the consultation.

UCU says it backs plans to elect the chairs of university governing bodies, but wants open elections without candidates being vetted as the consultation currently proposes.   It said it would also like all staff and students to then have a vote in the election of the chair.

The union said its demands would lead to greater accountability and fairer representation in the way Scotland's universities are run. UCU also wants to see more representative governing bodies - with at least 40 per cent of spaces reserved for women, and specific spaces for student and trade union representatives.

The union said it thought proposals to change the description of heads of universities from 'principal' to 'chief executive officer' were completely unnecessary. UCU said it backed plans, originally floated in a 2012 review of higher education in Scotland, to bring about an end to secretive remuneration committees tasked with awarding their principal's pay.

UCU argues that a bill on governance in universities needs to include measures to put an end to unwarranted double-digit pay rises. Earlier this week it was revealed that some principals continue to enjoy eye-watering pay rises.

UCU Scotland official, Mary Senior, said: 'This Bill is a once in a generation opportunity to sort out transparency in Scotland's universities. We need a far better and more representative mix of people sat at the top table in our institutions and we need to be able to scrutinise senior pay.

'We are supportive of much that the consultation contains, but want to see politicians grasp this opportunity and go further.'

UCU Scotland is submitting its submission before the 30 January deadline to encourage staff and students to make their own submissions. UCU branches and members will be carrying out campaigning activity on campuses in support of the union's proposals.

Consultation paper on a higher education governance bill, UCU Scotland response, Jan 15 [230kb]