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Calls for Manchester Metropolitan University vice-chancellor to resign immediately

1 October 2020

Manchester Metropolitan University vice-chancellor Professor Malcolm Press should resign immediately over his bungled handling of the Covid-19 crisis at the university, say his staff.

At a virtual emergency meeting, UCU members at the university passed a motion calling for him to resign and said they would write to the board of governors if he refused to go.

Professor Press has been under fire for a decision taken late on Friday to lock down 1,700 students for two weeks in halls of residence. However, the union's list of complaints about the vice-chancellor also include:

  • reputational damage
  • trying to blame students for Covid-19 outbreaks
  • a punitive approach to students under lockdown
  • trying to shut down student complaints by banning posters from their windows
  • being fundamentally out of touch with staff and students

UCU says it holds the vice-chancellor responsible for trying to blame students for the outbreaks and threatening them with disciplinary action. It said that threats and blame culture had no part to play in a responsible approach to public health, especially in the middle of a pandemic.

The union said the actions of the university had given the impression that the institution prioritised tuition fee and accommodation income over student and staff welfare. UCU said the reputational damage to the institution had been made worse by the university trying to ban students from putting posters up in their windows, and the university having to apologise when caught and criticised for restricting freedom of speech.

On Monday 21 September, the vice-chancellor emailed all staff to welcome them back for the 'start of term'. Teaching began in parts of the Birley Campus two weeks earlier (on Monday 7 September) and everywhere else on Monday 14 September.

The union also issued the university with a two-week deadline to agree how to deal with the problems of Covid-19 on campus and excessive workloads. If no agreement is reached then UCU said it would lodge a formal dispute with a view to balloting for industrial action.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: 'There is a long and serious charge sheet against the vice-chancellor and it is clear that his staff have lost confidence in him. He should now do the honourable thing and resign, and let somebody else try to rebuild the relationship with staff and students, as well as the reputation of Manchester Metropolitan University.

'We need a serious response to this crisis and threatening and blaming students is not the right approach. We remain keen to work with the university and we hope we can all now move forward and pull together to deal with the Covid crisis and avert serious physical and mental health problems for staff due to the massive workloads increases they have seen in recent months.

'If the university refuses to work with us then we will be left with little alternative than to ask members if they are prepared to take industrial action to protect their health and safety, and that of students and the local community.'

Last updated: 13 October 2020