The Leicester Mercury (March 5) recently reported that the University of Leicester’s vice-chancellor, Professor Paul Boyle, “is leaving his £285,000-a-year job.” He reportedly said to the Mercury:
“During my time at the university we have achieved, together, a huge amount… My decision to leave was, as you would expect, an incredibly difficult one.”
The chairman of the university’s council Dr Bridget Towle then paid tribute to Professor Boyle’s alleged “campaigning for equality and inclusivity” and concluded: “I am sure that everyone in our community will join me in giving Paul their best wishes as he embarks on the next phase of his career.”
But the staff who were forced to endure his alleged inclusive leadership-style at the University of Leicester evidently did not regard Professor Boyle’s departure as too painful. Thus. the University and College Union (UCU) bid their farewell to Boyle in a must-read article titled “Into the University of Leicester’s second century” (March 4).
In a truncated list of Professor Boyle’s early ‘achievements’, Leicester UCU wrote:
“A whole raft of process reviews was set up, which looked at first like an attempt at engagement but proved to be mostly an extravagant waste of both professional services and academic staff time; the perspective of academic staff was also commonly marginalised.”
His five-year legacy is summed-up in the following terms:
“But less than five calamitous years after he arrived, Boyle has gone. The legacy? One ‘Strategic Conversation’ and one ‘Strategic Plan’. At least two attempts to sack several hundred people (both, for the most part, successfully repelled). The closure of the respected Vaughan Centre for Lifelong Learning (now reborn phoenix-like as a cooperative college). Dozens, maybe hundreds, of colleagues who have been harmed by the culture of bullying that has been allowed to survive and even thrive. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of colleagues who have resigned in disgust or despair, moving to jobs elsewhere. Hundreds of us underpaid, undervalued. Academic cohesion and coherence have been badly damaged.”
Many more examples of Boyle’s disruptive legacy are therein outlined, which leads the Leicester UCU to conclude:
“Boyle has gone. But the problems of which he was a symptom remain. The current governance structure of University of Leicester is not fit for purpose.”
Hence, as a step forward, the UCU has responded to Boyle’s departure by making bold demands for the democratisation of their university’s governance structure.
“[W]e believe the appointment process for our institution’s next vice-chancellor must be transparent, rigorous and democratic – it must involve all members of community. Involving all members (and also other ‘stakeholders’) in the process can be part of a more general reform of the University of Leicester’s governance structures. Specifically, we propose a 3-step process for appointing a new VC:
“1. that elected representatives of all staff and students, along with representative of all staff and students’ unions, should be involved in the selection of a shortlist of candidates for VC;
“2. that shortlisted candidates be invited to visit the University, to meet informally with staff and students and also to take part in hustings, at which they can share their vision for the institution and respond to questions;
“3. finally, members of the University elect the new VC from the shortlist.”
Let’s hope that the University management take such democratic demands seriously, as who better to make decisions about how the University is run than the workers themselves. This is put well by the UCU who observed: “we believe that our institution’s past successes have been created by its staff and that its staff – that’s us – continue to make and remake the University.” Too right!