In May this year, Coventry University UCU published a pamphlet entitled, ‘Growth is ok…but what about quality?’
You can download the pamphlet here: UCU Pamphlet April 2017 w Equality Charter
This pamphlet criticised Coventry University’s Corporate Strategy 2021, which we see as unsustainable for a number of reasons articulated in the pamphlet
- Financial risk – the corporate plan aims to invest ‘at least £350m, with a surplus every year of 7% of income’ – the total net assets of the whole University Group are only £251m. We are concerned that if the bottom falls out of the aggressive growth plan the University has been pursuing, if student numbers fall significantly for example, it will be our members, our colleagues and our community in Coventry that will bear the consequences.
- Housing crisis – The Corporate Plan seeks to increase student numbers across the Group to an eye watering 80,000. According to HESA data, there were 27,600 HE students at Coventry University in 2014/15. The Corporate Plan, therefore, seeks to almost triple student numbers across the group. Coventry is already suffering a housing crisis, and the student accommodation being built now to accommodate these students doesn’t even scratch the surface. Tensions are rising in the city, with residents having mixed feelings towards the two universities, which they feel to be increasingly taking over.
- Quality – Coventry University’s rise through the league tables, although impressive and worthy of celebration, has been earned through the cashing in of the good will of staff who are working far beyond capacity to meet the unrealistic needs of the Corporate Plan. Our working conditions are our students’ learning conditions, and as the recent (2015) Green Paper on higher education, ‘Fulfilling our Potential: Teaching Excellence, Social Mobility and Student Choice’ suggests, teaching quality is fundamentally linked to the status and conditions of teaching staff, and to the proportion of teachers on secure contracts. Teaching ‘excellence’ is a professional practice, ‘not something achieved easily or without focus, time, challenge and change.’
- Equality – We have one of the most extensive and active equalities committees in UCU, and since the start of 2016 Coventry UCU equalities reps have made numerous representations for information, support and adjustments in order to support the rights and interests of our members. This new edition of the pamphlet describes this work and outlines our vision for a fairer university in our ‘Equalities Charter’.
We launched the pamphlet at the end of the last academic year (2016/17) at one of our best attended meetings, with about 100 members coming to collect their physical copy, have a samosa and listen to Stephen Cowden (Coventry UCU chair), Jane Nellist (Coventry TUC president) and Douglas Chalmers (UCU vice president) speak to the issues raised by our intervention.
In the new academic year we will be building on this success by pushing forward with our key campaigns, engaging in our day-to-day equalities and case-work activities, as well as pushing forward with new campaigns, Come along to our Annual General Meeting in Oct (details tbc) to hear more.