Leeds statute proposals: suggested MP email

7 July 2017

Suggested text for writing to your MP to ask them to lobby the Privy Council over the University of Leeds proposals for changing the statutes

Please amend and personalise this message as necessary.

Dear MP

Re: Privy Council and dispute over University of Leeds Statute revisions

I am writing as your constituent (my address: .......) and also as a member of the Leeds University branch of the University and College Union (UCU).

I would like you to contact the ministers, Jo Johnson, Justine Greening and Andrea Leadsom, on my behalf to make them aware that the proposed changes to University of Leeds Statutes submitted to Privy Council are a matter of dispute between the University of Leeds and the UCU for the reasons outlined below.

The proposed changes to University Statutes (which set the terms and conditions for academic and related staff) worsen protections for staff, in particular:

  • addition of an undefined catch-all category for dismissing staff for 'Some Other Substantial Reason' (SOSR)
  • removal of medically qualified chairs for panels deciding ill health dismissals
  • removal of independent legally qualified chairs for most dismissal appeals.

The existing grounds for dismissing staff within our Statutes  are: capability, ill health, misconduct or redundancy.  We believe that introducing 'some other substantial reason' for dismissal would jeopardise academic freedom.  SOSR, as a ground for dismissal, was explicitly excluded from University Statutes that arose from the Education Reform Act, 1988. A fundamental presupposition of academic endeavour is the freedom to propose and test new or controversial ideas and theories without the fear of losing one's job.  In this regard, we have concerns about the situations in which management has said they might use SOSR:

  • 'third party pressure' (this could be from corporations or government agencies who are unhappy with certain research findings)
  • 'breakdown in trust' (this could cover anyone falling into disagreement with their manager), and
  • 'conflict of interest' (this could be used against whistle-blowers who alert the public or wider academic community about certain issues or concerns).

The University of Leeds also proposes to move the procedures for dismissal from University Statutes to Ordinances, making it easier to erode protections for academic freedom in future.  This is of grave concern.

The 'SOSR' clause for dismissing staff may also undermine UNESCO recommendations concerning Higher Education teaching staff (1997):

"31. Higher-education teaching personnel should have the right and opportunity, without discrimination of any kind, ... to criticize the functioning of higher education institutions, including their own, ..." http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13144&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

I am alarmed that Leeds University management has submitted its proposed revised Statutes to Privy Council for ratification, despite the current industrial dispute in which UCU members have taken, and have scheduled further, strike action.

Please pass on my concerns to the relevant ministers, Jo Johnson, Justine Greening and Andrea Leadsom (President of the Privy Council which considers university statutes).  I would be grateful if you could reply confirming that you have done so, and forward to me any responses from those ministers. I would welcome your signature on our petition calling on the University of Leeds to withdraw their proposed new statutes at http://speakout.web.ucu.org.uk/university-of-leeds-statutes-no-sackers-charter/

Further details about this matter are here:  http://www.leedsucu.org.uk/category/consultations-and-negotiations/statutes/

Yours sincerely

Last updated: 2 July 2019