Dead heat in David Willetts “no confidence” vote

Michael Yoganayagam 26 July 2011

Cambridge University’s motion of “no confidence” in Universities Minister, David Willetts, has not been carried, as academics voted in a dead heat.

The Regent House, the University’s Parliament comprising over 3800 academics and staff, has been voting since 14th July on the following Grace, submitted by 149 of its members in June: “That, in the light of sweeping cuts to the HE budget, the trebling of tuition fees, and incoherent access policies, all decided on without adequate consultation, the University shall communicate to HM Government, by June 24, 2011 or as soon as possible thereafter, that it has no confidence in the policies of the Minister of State for Universities and Science, and that this duty be delegated to the Council”.

Voting closed today and results posted on the Senate House Boards show 1362 votes were cast in total – 681 for, and 681 against. Under the Statues and Ordinances of the University, an equality of votes results in the fall of a Grace. Some of the academics who proposed the Grace have expressed dissatisfaction with the University Council’s scheduling of the vote during the summer vacation – a decision to which some attribute the drawn vote.

In the past two months, motions of no confidence in Mr. Willetts have been passed by the equivalent academic bodies of the Universities of Oxford, Bradford, Leeds and Bath. News of Cambridge’s tied vote comes on the same day that the annual National Union of Students (NUS) National Executive Council (NEC) passed the following no confidence motion: “NUS NEC resolves ‘That NUS has no confidence in the Educational policies of the Coalition Government'”.

Cambridge University Students’ Union were keen to downplay the fall of the Grace, maintaining that “regardless of the result of the vote”, there was no doubt that Cambridge students and academics oppose the government’s higher education policies.

CUSU President Gerard Tully commented: “Students, both in Cambridge and across the country, have had no confidence in this government’s approach to higher education since day one: the reality of £9,000 tuition fees is simply that students from the least advantaged backgrounds will be deterred from applying to university by fear of debt. The White Paper promises new chaos – universities and students deserve and demand better.”

Michael Yoganayagam