Staff overwhelmingly back motion calling for Open University vice-chancellor to resign

5 April 2018 | last updated: 9 April 2018

UCU members at the Open University have delivered a damning vote of no confidence in their vice-chancellor Peter Horrocks.

At an emergency meeting, UCU members overwhelmingly backed a motion of no confidence that calls on him to resign.

The no confidence vote comes just days before a specially-convened meeting of the Open University (OU) council on Monday (9 April). That meeting has been called to allow council members the opportunity to discuss the proposed cuts and recent concerns about the leadership of the OU.

Union members said Peter Horrocks's position had become untenable and the vote of no confidence should impress the need for council members to call for a change at the top on Monday.

Peter Horrocks was already under fire for reported plans to cut courses by a third and axe hundreds of staff, which UCU said would 'destroy' the institution and reduce it to a 'digital content provider'.

The meeting also passed a motion calling for the withdrawal of the threat of hundreds of redundancies at the OU and one that called for the local branch to consult members about taking industrial action to defend jobs.

UCU regional official Lydia Richards said: 'Staff have made it quite clear what they think about the vice-chancellor's recent behaviour. The Open University is a magnificent institution and it needs someone at the helm who understands its unique position and who will talk up its brilliant staff.

'It is time for a change at the top and time for a halt to damaging cuts that would destroy the Open University as we know it. We hope for the future of the Open University that council members will recommend a change at the top when they meet on Monday afternoon.'

The vote comes a week after a series of insulting interviews by Horrocks. He told the Today Programme (2:49) that his cuts were not cuts, they were 'reprioritising' and then, in an exchange with students last week, he accused Open University academics of 'not teaching'.

UCU had likened his attack on Open University academics to the time Gerald Ratner described one of his company's products as 'total crap'.


The motions

MOTION 1

This general meeting has no confidence in our current vice-chancellor, or in his plans and intentions for the future of our university.

On the basis of recent events, he has shown that he does not understand the university's teaching model, nor the importance of the OU's research base.

We believe the best way of avoiding damage to the public image of the OU is for the VC to step down as soon as possible.

We therefore call upon the vice-chancellor to resign.

MOTION 2

We have always been open to positive and evidence-based change in delivering innovative learning for our students, but positive change is not compatible with huge cuts to our staff numbers and the slashing of our research base.

Furthermore we do not believe the university's financial situation justifies large-scale staff cuts as indeed the vice-chancellor has admitted.

In order to maintain the excellent quality of OU teaching we call upon OU management to withdraw the threat of hundreds of redundancies.

We ask the OU UCU branch executive and officers to seek assurances from management that there will be no compulsory redundancies, and authorise the branch executive to open a dispute with the university if such assurances are not given.

MOTION 3

This EGM hopes the OU will soon be in a different place over "many many job losses" and the proposal for compulsory redundancies, and in a different place over proposals to remove the employment protection in OU Statute 21 and the introduction of new reasons for dismissal.

This EGM also notes that the OU is more likely to be in a different place soon over these matters if there is a change in leadership.

If the university does not move to a different position on these matters, this meeting asks the OU UCU branch executive to carry out an initial consultative ballot to assess the willingness of OU UCU branch members to take industrial action.  

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