How Oxford May Actually Work After All

Sophie Smith and Amia Srinivasan

This morning the vice chancellor sent a message to all staff of the University of Oxford:

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to follow up on yesterday’s meeting in the Sheldonian which my colleagues have told me about.

I was very sorry not to be there myself but I had scheduled a trip to New York on university business before the meeting of Congregation was called.

In light of the depth of feeling of so many colleagues we will convene a special meeting of Council today at noon and will be recommending that Council reverse its response to the UUK survey in line with Congregation’s resolution.

I also hope that we will be able to work together to help bridge the divide between UUK and UCU in the ongoing negotiations. The future of our pensions is a shared interest for so many members of this University that we must try to find common ground. In the coming days we will look for ways to improve our engagement with staff so that all members of our community are able to speak and be heard on this very important issue.

Yours sincerely,
Louise Richardson


  • 7 March 2018 at 3:46pm
    Bernard Sufrin says:
    Good leadership is about providing clarity not about giving instructions to "staff". So now there is an issue of confidence in the elected leadership (both council members and the VC herself are elected by Congregation -- the latter indirectly). Richardson was so definite in her pronouncements (in advance of the meeting) contra discussion+vote, and a significant proportion of those who stood up to prevent discussion+vote were members of our council, or heads of division, that one has to ask who among our leadership was advising whom in the run-up to yesterday's meeting. If council members were doing Richardson's bidding, or endorsing a position she put to them at Council, then how can we have confidence in them as independently-minded leaders of the University. If those who stood were acting on some sort of principle by preventing the vote, then how will they be able to live with themselves if they do a volte-face at the noon meeting (I still don't know what happened there). The rationale put by Richardson for delaying the vote until Trinity Term was that Congregation members would not be able to organise their affairs so as to be able to attend. But the Sheldonian (where Congregation meets) was packed to the rafters with people who /had/ organised their affairs....

    As for «improving communication with staff» (by «staff» I suppose she means «members»), a good start might have been responding appropriately to experienced people who had explained privately the urgency of the situation, and the risks posed to the future of the whoe Academic sector let alone that of this University. Instead we saw Oxford remaining notably silent in the face of other academic leaderships voicing serious doubts about the methods used by UUK/USS. In fact /silence/ might have been better than what we actually saw, which amounted to an endorsement of the UUK/USS position.

  • 7 March 2018 at 7:38pm
    ImperialUCU says:
    Does anyone know if/how Ian Walmsley voted at Congregation yesterday. I hear he coped quite well as stand in for the VC, but not sure on that basis if he would have been able to vote as chair of the meeting.