Will Cambridge have confidence in Willetts?

26 June 2011

Cambridge University is expected over the summer to add its voice to a growing verdict of “no confidence” in Universities Minister, David Willetts, by the UK’s higher education sector.

The Regent House, the University’s Parliament comprising over 3800 academics and staff, is to vote in July on the following Grace, submitted by 149 of its members earlier this month: 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 papers are to be distributed to all members of Regent House on or before Thursday, 14 July, with the last date for the return of voting papers being Monday, 25 July.

The vote comes after Oxford University’s Congregation, its equivalent of Regent House, passed a similar motion on June 7th with 283 votes for, and only 5 against, instructing its council to “communicate to government that the University of Oxford has no confidence in the policies of the minister for higher education”.

CUSU President, Rahul Mansigani commented: “We are very pleased that Oxford academics have expressed their frustration with this government’s haphazard education policy by such an overwhelming majority. I confidently expect that Cambridge academics will also vote to take a stand against the damage that Willetts’ policies are doing to universities, access, and social mobility”.

In a growing nationwide campaign, Bradford University UCU last Wednesday passed a unanimous motion of no confidence in Willetts. Warwick University have reached over 1000 signatures on their petition, and Goldsmiths, part of the University of London, have almost hit the 100 mark.

Cambridge academics are hopeful that the motion could realistically reverse some of these proposals, in the same way that outcry from doctors led the government to re-examine its plans for changes to the NHS.

Dr Jason Scott-Warren, senior Cambridge lecturer in the Faculty of English, speaking to BBC’s Look East, said: “If Oxford and Cambridge and other academics across the country speak out against the changes, it’s possible that will force government to re-think.”

However, a spokesperson from Willetts’ department, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, told The Cambridge Student: “Universities have always been bastions of free speech and debate. However, our student and university finance reforms are fairer than the present system and affordable for the nation… Our reforms put students in the driving seat while putting universities on a sustainable footing for the future.”

Michael Yoganayagam – Co-Editor in Chief

Image: bisgovuk