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University of London News

Vast majority vote for ULU to remain in student hands

By London Student, University of London News

 

The majority of participants in a referendum held by the University of London Union (ULU) have voted against university management plans to scrap the union.

86% of the 4,545 students who took part in the referendum, which closed on 7 February, voted ‘yes’ to the question “Should ULU’s building, activities and campaigns continue to be run democratically by students?”

University of London’s (UoL) current plans involve closing the democratic representation functions of the union with management taking over its current facilities in order to create a ‘New Student Centre’.

Heythrop College and Goldsmiths have yet to contribute their results due to “political” and logistical issues, but both are expected to do so at a later date.

Adrian Smith, UoL’s vice-chancellor, was principal at Queen Mary in 2005 when the the possibility of absorbing the students’ union into the college as a department was considered.

Michael Chessum, president of ULU, said the result proved that proposals to abolish the union have “no legitimacy”.
“Any notion that the university’s plans had any sort of public support are now out the window,” he said.

Shelly Asquith, chair of National Union of Students London said: “It is clear that students are rejecting the university’s proposals, and the University of London must respect that.”

But UoL said they were standing by the conclusions of their own review and criticised the referendum on the grounds that those who voted were “only a tiny minority, just 3.75% of our total student population.”

However, just 826 students – 0.6% of the student body – responded to the university’s own survey on the student centre plans late last year.

A university spokesperson insisted the survey and referendum were “two completely different things” and said the survey was to see students’ opinions and would not “be used directly to create policy.”

Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 8 (10/03/2014)

UCL and IOE in merger discussions

By London Student, University of London News

Institute of Education

University College London (UCL) and the Institute of Education (IoE) have announced on Wednesday that they are beginning to consult on a proposed merger.

The consultation, which will last until May, comes after a report by Times Higher Education (THE) which revealed that staff at IoE had been informed of the plans at a faculty briefing on 5 February.

If the merger were to go ahead, IoE would become UCL’s biggest faculty, a follow on from a strategic partnership already formed in 2012.

However, concerns have already been expressed about the loss of IoE’s university charter, degree-awarding powers and of potential ‘asset-stripping’.

Even though UCL Provost, Professor Michael Arthur, has stated that IoE staff have been guaranteed that there will be no job losses in the first year after the merger with UCL, an internal report by the two institutions suggests that this may change later.

The report states that job losses may be a scenario in the long term owing to a “detailed consideration of the administrative requirement for the new faculty” that would take place after the two institutions combine.

Charlie Owen, president of the University and College Union (UCU) branch for IoE, stated they had no official stance on the issue but expressed concerns over potential job losses over the medium term as well as the sudden announcement, which had been discussed behind “closed doors” by the management.

This news follows a merger between UCL and The School of Pharmacy in 2012 which went ahead despite meeting significant resistance by the school’s staff.

The UCU launched a ‘Saving Our School’ campaign after a survey of just over half the school’s staff voted 85% against the decision.

In original minutes, the institution’s audit committee stated that the merger proposals “did not provide assurance that the project was adequately managed or resourced” and that there was “no coherent plan”.

Yet, three months later, the committee removed the most explicit criticism from the minutes after the governing council suggested that these “strongly held concerns” be raised with its chair.

Professor Arthur has said that the School of Pharmacy benefited from attracting additional investment whilst retaining its own leadership under UCL.

In regards to IoE he commented, “We are not a predator – we are a thoughtful academic institution that does things for academic reasons, not to make cost savings”.

Adrian Polglase, London Student: for Issue 7 (17/02/2014)

KCL halls to close

By London Student, University of London News

King's College

Students at King’s College London (KCL) are angry at proposals to close the university’s Hampstead halls of residence over the next 2 years under a development plan.

Over 300 people have signed an online petition opposing plans which KCL claims will increase available rooms by 648 by 2016.

Part of the Hampstead residences, which KCL plans to gradually close over the next 2 years under a development plan.

The petition notes Hampstead’s rents are among the cheapest KCL offers and demands managers “show that they are committed to ensuring that King’s is a university open to students from all economic backgrounds, not just those who are economically privileged”.

The petition also raises concerns that construction work will cause “huge disruption to students during the… summer examination period.”

A KCL spokesperson said the university “is committed to providing high quality and affordable residential accommodation” and added: “We understand that affordability is a key issue for students”.

Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 7 (17/02/2014)

Anonymous hack QMUL over MoD links

By London Student, University of London News

Queen's Building, Queen Mary, University of London

Online activist group Anonymous has hacked into and leaked confidential information from Queen Mary, University of London.

The information included a sample of student details and map of the college’s IT network.

That ‘hacktivist’ group claimed the move was a response to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) funding “invasive” research at Queen Mary.

This attack was in response to the Guardian’s revelation earlier this month that the MoD funded individual Ph.D students’ cyberspace-related research at six higher education institutions, including Queen Mary and King’s College London.

A member of Anonymous told the Daily Dot that the group “plan on stirring things up over the universities taking MoD cash for invasive research”.

A spokesperson from Queen Mary said “We are investigating the claims. We have informed the police”.

Keumars Afifi-Sabet and Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 6 (27/01/2014)

Charges against Willetts protesters thrown out after 'shocking' police inconsistencies exposed

By London Student, University of London News

Two student protesters who faced charges of assault, obstruction and resisting arrest have had the cases against them thrown out after a YouTube video revealed, what the judge in one of the cases said were, “shocking” inconsistencies in police officers’ accounts of the events.

The incident, occurring at a protest during a talk by education minister David Willets at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in June 2011, involved the two students being wrestled to the ground by the police, arrested, strip-searched, fingerprinted and charged.

Former London School of Economics student Ashok Kumar, 29, who had been invited to interview Mr. Willetts, attempted to intervene in a dispute between a teenage student filming police and PC Paul McAuslan.

PC McAuslan claimed Mr. Kumar pushed him twice before running away, but the case against Mr. Kumar was dropped in court after YouTube footage revealed the police account to be wrong and that no assault or obstruction had taken place.

Scotland Yard have agreed to compensate Mr. Kumar, now studying for a PhD at Oxford University, £20,000 in damages for wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, assault and malicious prosecution.

Mr. Kumar told the Evening Standard: “what was astonishing was I was sitting in court and there were officers there ready to testify that I had done something when it was as clear as day from the video that I hadn’t”.

The other case involved former Birkbeck law PhD student Simon Behrman, 36, who went to SOAS to demonstrate against Mr. Willett’s policies.

Mr. Behrman is also set to receive £20,000 in damages, after a court testimony given by PC Chris Johnson contradicted photo evidence of the incident. Mr. Behrman claimed he fell after PC Johnson grabbed his rucksack and the protest group he had joined surged forward.

Mr. Behrman’s defence claimed that he was then punched in the chest by PC Thomas Ashley and then being taken in a headlock by another officer

A spokesperson for the Met said it had begun an investigation, adding, “Three officers are the subject of the [Independent Police Complaints Commission] supervised investigation. At no time had we previously received a public complaint in relation to this matter. As soon as we were aware of the video evidence an investigation was launched.”

Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 6 (27/01/2014)

Teaching staff take further strike action

By London Student, National News, University of London News
Deptford Town Hall

Deptford Town Hall

University academic and support staff held a second strike over pay last Tuesday, following previous action on 31 October, with student at one University of London college staging an occupation in support.

Members of four unions – the University and College Union (UCU), Unite, Unison and the Educational Institute of Scotland – formed picket lines all over the country on 3 December, opposing a 1% pay rise offer which they say constitutes a 13% real terms cut sincere 2008.

Last Tuesday’s action forced the University of London to shut Senate House Library and caused class cancellations across the city.

The strike also say Goldsmiths students occupy Deptford Town Hall, which houses university management offices, in support of the strikers. Around 100 students moved in last Monday evening, with around 30 saying until 12pm the following day.

Their occupation came after other by students in Sheffield, Edinburgh, Sussex, Ulster, Birmingham and Exeter.

In a statement, the occupiers said managers should look to their own incomes to find savings. “The university sector has the biggest pay disparity of all public sectors, with the gender pay gap widening with every new government policy of marketisation”.

In an open letter to Pay Loughrey, Goldsmiths’ warden, members of the university’s UCU brand wrote: “While salaries of lecturers and support staff have declined in real terms, the same cannot be said of the warden who has recently been awarded a 9% pay rise and benefits from a pension contribution far in excess of the annual salary of most support staff”.

A Goldsmiths press officer response to UCU’s letter by emphasising that of the four years Loughrey has been warden, he has only accepted a pay rise in one of them, making his average yearly pay increase just over 2%.

He also claimed that Loughrey was “well below average” in league tables comparing university head’s salaries with seventy others earning more than him.

Adrian Polglase and Nicholas Winchester, London Student: Issue 5 (09/12/2013)

Queen Mary students angered by price of campus theatre hire

By London Student, University of London News
Queen Mary's Great Hall Theatre

Queen Mary’s Great Hall Theatre

Student societies at Queen Mary are angry at being told that in order to use their campus’ theatre space, they will have to pay the corporate rate of £357 a day.

The Queen Mary Theatre Company (QMTC), a student society, was quoted £2,500 of “internal charges” for a seven-day hire of the recently refurbished great hall.

These prices prevent students from developing their own abilities, according to Wai Wan Choy, co-president of QMTC. He said it is “ridiculous considering it’s a college-owned venue but has been priced out of range for many student societies and groups”.

The rates compare unfavourably to those of other University of London colleges. University College London (UCL) offers twelve weeks of free student and staff use for their equivalent-sized venue.

Queen Mary’s theatre space, which seats up to 770 people, was officially re-opened in February following a £6.3 million refurbishment, but has since been mainly used for college lectures and commercial out-of-college hire.

The college was also only willing to offer corporate rates when the Queen Mary Student’s Union (QMSU) attempted to book the venue for their upcoming winter ball.

According to a member of the winter ball committee, the union attempted “to negotiate prices”, but the quote given by the college forced the union to resort to hiring a third-party venue off-campus which was less expensive and had a higher capacity.

Sarah Sarwar, president of QMSU, said it was important that the space “can be available to student groups”.

She added: “The union doesn’t have any official comment on [the pricing] yet, but the internal charges strike me as so bizarre”.

The college defended the internal hire charges by claiming that the venue requires considerable resources to maintain and that consequently “internal users need to contribute financially to its upkeep and the cost of hosting events”.

Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 4 (18/11/2013)

University's survey on future of ULU criticised

By London Student, University of London News
University of London Union Building on Malet Street

University of London Union Building on Malet Street

A University of London survey released this month asking for opinions on what should replace its students union, which is set to close next year, has been condemned by the students’ union itself.

The questionnaire is meant to find out from students which services they currently use at the University of London Union (ULU) building and which they could do without. The university has voiced an intention to turn the premises into a ‘student centre’ from 2014, apparently removing its elected officers but keeping some services.

There is no option on the survey students can select if they want to see the building continuing to be run by elected officers.

Moreover, anyone can fill in the online survey, launched on 12 October, since no university password is required. By using a different browser, a person can participate in it multiple times.

Michael Chessum, ULU president, said that the survey placed students “in the absurd position” of filling out a survey “in which they can say anything except what the vast majority of them must be thinking: that we want democratic control of the building”.

At last Thursday’s meeting of the ULU senate, the student unions of Birkbeck, Goldsmiths and the School of Oriental and African Studies said they would “definitely not” be sending the survey to their members.

Chessum said ULU will run a referendum to rival the university’s survey next month.

At time of going to print, the university was unavailable to comment.

Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 3 (28/10/2013)

Pro-choice Goldsmiths students challenge anti-abortionism

By London Student, University of London News
Goldsmiths, University of London's Richard Hoggart Building

Goldsmiths, University of London’s Richard Hoggart Building

Goldsmiths students launched a counter-demonstration at the end of September against anti-abortion campaigners who demonstrated next to the college’s campus in New Cross.

The Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) handed out antiabortion flyers with slogans such as “abortion is about a child not a choice” on 25th September on Dixon Road, between the Richard Hoggart building and the library.

Members of Goldsmiths Students’ Union (GSU) responded by creating makeshift pro-choice placards and following the antiabortion group down New Cross Road.

They also handed out Abortion Rights leaflets and made clear to passers-by that the SPUC campaigners were not affiliated to Goldsmiths.

Karis Handson, one of GSU’s women’s officers, said that the SPUC’s material was “offensive and potentially distressing to students due to its moralistic and sensationalist language and judgemental framing of women who have chosen to have abortions”.

Later in the day SPUC published a blog post condemning the union’s response.

It said: “What began as some simple leafleting ended with us being followed by a group of 15 aggressive pro-abortion students”.

The SPUC also claimed they were smeared by the student union’s newspaper, The Leopard. The group said that they had been situated on public footpaths off-campus and “harassed” by members of the union’s feminist society.

Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 2 (07/10/2013)

Unions angered by NUS failure to consult

By London Student, University of London News

NUS Logo

The National Union of Students (NUS) has come under criticism for not consulting a sufficient number of London’s students’ unions on its plans for a new London-wide body.

Rachael Mattey, NUS vice-president, named only four students’ unions as consulted parties for the planned ‘NUS London’ area when questioned by the National Executive Council (NEC).

The only unions consulted over the new proposals were City University Union, Greenwich University Union, King’s College London Students’ Union, and the London School of Economics Union.

A London students’ union source said that NUS officers predominantly consulted sabbatical officers “they would get the right answers from”.

A statement being circulated among London union officers complains that there was no mention of an ‘NUS London’ area last month, when the interim executive of the London Union of Students (LUS) met with an NUS staff member.

Upon seeing the NUS preliminary plans, the interim executive of LUS submitted an amendment pushing for a more full-blooded union. However, the NEC rejected its hearing 17 votes to 13.

Mattey commented: “Ultimately the decision about whatever additional representation exist sits with London students’ unions. Following the NEC, NUS will continue to further consult with them on plans”.

Adrian Polglase, London Student: Issue 2 (07/10/2013)