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ULU breaks campaign assurance on merger

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Oct 23 2002 21:07

The University of London Union has broken its own policy on the proposed UCL/IC merger with recent campaigning.

Oct 23 2002 21:19

If the facts above are true: that firstly ULU Council authorised ?50,000 to fight top-up fees; secondly ULU officers spent ?30,000 on an advert about the merger, than that is a total disgrace.

I suggest (though I know it won't happen, since no-one has the spine to do it) that the sabbatical responsible should be sacked by ULU Council.

Oct 23 2002 21:27

As far as I am aware it was ULU Exec, not ULU Council which allocated the money. And the advert was about top-up fees, it just seems to have confused the two issues together...

The ad is actually on-line on the ULU front page.

Oct 23 2002 21:34

Isn't that advert just plain wrong? They didn't vote to increase fees, they voted to *actively support* an increase? The advert makes it sounds like it's actually being implemented, rather than just a policy change.

Or did I misunderstand what they were voting on?

4. seb   
Oct 23 2002 22:18

Frankly I think the advert was a disgrace.

It blew over 60% of the budget on an advert that was near incomprehensible unless you already understood the issue.

Asside from breaking the campaign assurance, the quote from Hodge is hopelessly edited, the statment on Imperial College's policy is so inacurate as to be libelous (which hardly helps the campaign), and the rhetorical questions at the bottom of the advert are only properly understood with information not printed.

As for the two tier university system... it already exists: redbricks&Oxbridge Vs the old polys.

5. Seb   
Oct 23 2002 22:19


You are correct. And the ULU ad is wrong.

Oct 23 2002 23:19

?30,000 on inaccurate, sensationalist claptrap.

The case for "UL Who?" just gets better. At least the NUS blow their money on booze.

Oct 23 2002 23:48

*thud*, *thud*, *thud,

[bangs head against wall]

I think the main problem is that UCLU seem to be treating merger and top-up fees as a single issue (or at least separate issues that are inter-dependent). Gower Street is rather close to Malet Street, while Beit Towers is not. The Bloomusbury bunch's influence is entirely understandable, especially when the small/specialist Colleges (the ones most keen on ULU) are worried by the prospect of either being swallowed by IC-UCL or being left to fend for themselves following a UL break-up.

So, I would argue that the main problem is not the way that ULU are approaching this, par se. The problem is that UCL Union seem to be unable to separate the issues (and according to our own President, Senthooran Ganeshwaranthan, were reluctant to call a referendum on the merger which they have already rejected via an EGM).

The key issue for ICU is not how to deal with ULU. (Though that is important.) They key issue is to get UCLU to see sense - especially if we are going to merge with that lot!!


Oct 23 2002 23:52

That's not to say that ULU's advert should be ignored... but I haven't seen the exact wording (yet) of what was agreed at that ULU Exec and shall reserve judgement on whether they have 'broken policy' until then.

Oct 24 2002 10:04

I have now read the advert and my views are unchanged: it's still rubbish. To talk about a merger "paving the way to a two-tier system" when the UK and everywhere else clearly always had multi-tier higher education is so crass as to be unbelievable. Claiming a tuition fee sum that's 50% out just gives ammunition to those who want to belittle the student voice. And it's claiming a student view about the merger before any consultation with the student body about it, something we've complained the college authorities do.

If this was supposed to be aimed at opinion-formers then whoever drafted the advert needs some serious re-training in writing persuasively or at all.

Oct 24 2002 11:00

This is all the more interesting given that Estelle Morris has just resigned - although I that seems mainly related to A-levels.

I am not surprised that UCLU are confusing the issues. The first thing they hear is that they are merging with IC (although listening to some of them they feel it is more of a take-over) and the very next thing they hear is that IC will be introducing fees. Confusing the issues would seem to be quite easy.

On a separate note given that we may soon be leaving UofL, we will probably be disaffiliating from ULU, which might let us escape ULU's monthly comedy momments.

Oct 24 2002 11:27

The full cost of the Times ad is ?31k, part of the ?50k that has been allocated by the ULU Executive to a "fighting fund" against increased tuition fees (also mistakenly referred to as a "top-up" fee).

This fund also is paying for a free-lance press officer until the position is filled on a full-time basis in mid-November. Every UL college has access to ULU support staff. This has been made quite clear.

I regret that the Merger and Fees issues have been clouded, and have expressed this to both ICU's Deputy President (E&W) and to Charlotte Dawkins, ULU President. I am confident that this blip can be put to one side whilst the campaign against tuition fees in waged. There will be people who genuinely believe that the Fees and Merger issues are linked like Siamese twins, and with my QM hat on this is absolutely and utterly the case - that is representing the opinions of students here (and that goes for all mergers in London, not just IC/UC).

However, with my ULU hat on, I formed a good network of contacts within ICU and on countless occasions in the last fortnight have been at IC and ULU supporting and gauging opinion from IC Union Officers and members. I have on countless occasions tried to do my ULU job with an open mind and "open door". I have always been on the end of a phone, email and quite often actually at ULU/ICU. I am not a sabbatical...

I have sought advice and, when asked, given thoughts and advice.

My main concern is that there is a conflict between Presidents' Council (ie: all the presidents and other sabbs in UL) and the ULU Exec. I am not going to labour this issue...

To find out officially what exactly was agreed, then you should contact the ULU Council Chair (David Francis) and I am sure he will give you ad verbatim what the Exec's final consensus was.

Thank you for your invaluable support on this issue.

Oct 24 2002 11:31

ICU and all college union's in UL are NOT affiliated to ULU. They never were. And they never will be. ULU is made up of the "internal students of the University of London.". ULU is clearly a separate students' union, it just relies upon college proportional representation to form ULU Council, the union's governing body. It is not the NUS. It is not like the NUS. It does not speak for or against the NUS. Period.

Oct 24 2002 11:52

I was in no way trying to suggest that ULU was similar to the NUS. Merely that we have seen a continued series of articles about ULU mistakes (mainly last year) specifically relating to IC vs ULU. However it does serve good food and have a good nightclub/sports center.

Back to the subject at hand: Should a joint UCLU/ICU working group be set up when we've both had our referenda?

14. Seb   
Oct 24 2002 15:16


A joint working group sounds like a good idea.

The problem with making a decision on the merger seems to be that the rector+provost seem to be saying all the right things (no efficiency savings other than on beaurocrats, no redundancies, no axing of departments) I just can't see what they are going to do with overlapping research groups, or how they are going to merge departments together to create departments (like Physics) with 350 undergrads in one yeargroup. Either they have to run the lecture courses twice and thus anyone giving a course won't have time to be doing research (one of the good things about being taught at research based universities), or someone needs to find a whole lot of lecture hall with seating for 400. This seems unlikely.

Oct 24 2002 19:50

Reading this discussion is like reading the Daily Mail. The Daily Mail hates anyone who's not white, middle class and heterosexual. So they hate foreigners, gays and the working class.

You lot hate anyone that's not from ICU. So you hate NUS, you hate ULU, you hate UCLU. You think there's some sort of huge conspiracy agaist Imperial students. That's just pathetic. Grow up.

16. Seb   
Oct 24 2002 21:01

Oh please! You sound like a mail reader yourself.

We hate the NUS because they are basicaly incompetent. They failed to block tuition fees, we see affiliation as not worth the very large sums of money required and they are utterly unwilling to work with us when it is mutually advantageous. On top of that their position on tuition fees is unreasonable and negative which means we are more likely to be completely ignored rather than listened to by government.

We don't hate ULU, we are just incensed that after a gaurantee that they would not blur the issue of top up fees and the merger, they reneged on the promise and then proceded to undermine the anti-top-up-fees argument with a near hysterical advert that took up 60% of the budget.

Again, that's just incompetent.

As for UCLU, we are currently working with them.

Oct 24 2002 21:29

I'd suggest you read Mustafa Arif's post and reconsider.

And the reason that ULU has blurred the issue is because they are linked. There is no way to disentangle them.

Though this may not matter to you lot, if Imperial's management takes over UCL (as looks likely), the case for top up fees London-wide and indeed nationwide will be strengthened considerably.

ULU is acting on behalf of its other members (IC only accounts for 10% of them, remember) by linking the two issues.

If you don't like that, well, that's called solidarity, and it's why we have intercollegiate and interuniversity organisations like NUS and ULU.

I agree wholeheartedly that the NUS is incompetent(though I would not say that ULU is), but an imperfect national forum for students is better than none at all.

Oct 24 2002 21:46

Oh grow up!

The issue here is surely not that ULU have linked the two issues in their ad but that they gave an assurance that they would not link them, at least for the time being.

Oct 25 2002 01:00

The reason they have broken the promise is that for non Imperial students, there is no distinction between the two issues.

I appreciate that for IC students, the situation is different (you're going to get the fees anyway, and believe me I feel your pain), but ULU also represents the 90% of students for whom fees and the merger *cannot* be distinguished.

Perhaps they were foolish to give the assurance, but I refuse to accept that they were foolish to link the issues.

20. Eddie   
Oct 25 2002 01:22

What?? so all students accross the country see Top Up fees as the result of UCL merging with IC??? When you say Non IC students, you mean UCL students dont you?

I dont think the likes of cambridge, warwick etc would agree with you. I really dont.

As you evidently dont realise, it is really quite simple. This group of Rectors/Vice Chancellors got together and decided that top up fees would be a damn fine idea. So they are taking various steps to try and get them in.

At the same time one of these Rectors decided to chat to a VC elsewhere, and arrange a merger. Makes sense to him no doubt....

Do you think that Fees wont appear at an individual UCL if the government lets Universities/Colleges do it? With the debt level, and yearly loss that UCL has (and hey, we have one too so it isnt a dig at you)

I fear someone has decided the Merger would be bad for them, and decided to rally UCL students by telling them that Fees will be the result. Please look more at the facts.... The paper IC Council passed regarding Fees really didnt intend us to be alone in charging them!!!

Oct 25 2002 09:38

Right now, Richard Sykes is the only university boss to have made the case publicly for top up fees. His influence would be massively increased if he were to take control of UCL too (it would multiply by between 2 and 3 the size of his university). It's in the interests of all the other students (including, but *not* limited to UCL students) that Richard Sykes doesn't get a larger platform to speak from.

And to those who claim there's no link between merger and fees, please ponder on this sentence, posted by UCL's provost on the college intranet yesterday:

"NEW UNIVERSITY would be well-placed to compete for 'best' home and overseas students in an 'economic fee and scholarship' market environment"

22. Seb   
Oct 25 2002 10:19

Top up fees are not linked with the merger.

The rectors proposal on top up fees is only to be implemented if all the other russel group universities agree to it.

So we won't get top up fees unless Oxbridge, Kings, QM, UCL, Warrick, Bristol, Manchester, LSE etc. also agree to top up fees prior to implementation.

The top up fees will go ahead with or without a merger.

Similarly, the merger will go ahead with or without a top up fee.

The "take over" of UCL wouldn't make the blindest bit of difference: The provosts, vc's, directors and rectors of the russel group (Redbricks + Oxbridge) have all given off the record support for top up fees. They are just waiting for Sykes to go first so they can blame sykes for it and tell their students they have no choice. You are deluding yourself it you think otherwise: EVERY russel group university is making a 3K a year loss teaching undergrads. NONE of them have proposed a funding alternative to top up fees. So either they are all run by very, very stupid people who are ignoring the fact that they are all slowley going bankrupt, or they are actually just waiting to come out in support as a "me too".

As for your provosts quote, that only indicates that the merger is seen as perparing UCL and IC for surivivng better in a fees environment. That dosn't mean that stopping the merger will stop fees.

Oct 25 2002 11:59

As both a past IC student and now a member of UCL staff I'd like to think I can see this from both sides. One thing that strikes me and which has been demonstrated in the discussions here from both IC and UCL students is fear. In one respect these two issues: top-up fees and the proposed joint merger strategy are linked - by fear.

However the two issues are very different as the fear is very different. I would imagine with regards to the merger the fear of IC students and staff, certainly for the staff I know here at UCL, is of the unknown. The merger could be a good thing - or it could be a disaster: we do not know yet. But the fear of top up fees is real and present: I would have not gone to Oxford had it been charging top-up fees / differential fees / whatever the trendy version is today. It would have barred me and many others from a first grade education - purely based on ability to pay.

In any case, fear should not be allowed to cloud any judgement. ICU and UCLU should be working together - so far this has not appeared the case: Mandy Telford was at the recent EGM at UCLU but no ICU representative........

Oct 25 2002 12:08

Dear Kevin,

As I recall, Mandy Telford was invited to the EGM by UCLU...

(Incidentally i saw her on TV last night, backing the promotion of an ex. NUS President to the position of Education Secreatry - hopefully her future career path is secure now - nice for some!)

I don't think there would have been any such invitation to an ICU representative... which says more about UCLU's priorities than it does about ICU arrogance...

anyway, i thought we had both retired from politics ;o)

Oct 25 2002 13:22

On mergers:

Firstly, can we ask Derek Roberts from UCL to come over and talk to us as Sir Richard has offered to talk to UCLU.

Secondly, it doesn't help having posters in UCL saying "Don't become Imperial's Gimps"

Thirdly, GSK just got critised, in the press, for being too focused on sales and marketing and not on research.

On Fees:

Firstly it seems that Sir Richard is merely paving the way for the new strategy document which is soon to be released by the Government.


Oh look - the new Education Secretary was an NUS president.

To summarise - I think ICU and UCLU should work together now, without the "help" of NUS, on the issue of mergers.

And maybe we could borrow some minibuses?

Oct 25 2002 15:07

Yes Sam - we have retired...............


And I know she was invited - it was a particularly cheap jibe, not like me. Sorry.

Having read the UCLU EGM minutes the feeling that these two issues are linked, and irreducibly so, is a worry to me. That aside - the campaign against top-up fees needs to be strengthened, but the debate on merger - well that has just begun................

Oct 25 2002 17:34

Just to clear a few things up.

1. "UCL and Proud" and anyone else who cares... Sorry about the tone of my earlier post. I did not intend to belittle UCLU although I still believe that the merger and top-up fees are separate issues.

1.b) Top-up fees "are likely" (in govt advisor, Sir Richard's words) to feature in the HE funding white paper next month. This means it is an issue of government policy that we need to address. We should not get overly worked up at Sykes about it. We should also not kid ourselves that an Imperial-UCL merger is going to make it more or less likely to happen.

2. ULU is right to be concerned, on behalf of the majority of its members, about any potential disbanding of the University of London. I would support them in such action and believe they would be failing their membership if they did not.

3. The merger and 'future of UL' issues are linked. but merger == collapse of UL is not a foregone conclusion, in my opinion.

4. It is more important that we work together where our positions are aligned. Its all very well for Hamish to preach about sacking ULU sabbs but quite frankly how's that going to help anyone?

5. We don't hate all the people "UCL and proud" suggested we do. Sure some people here hate ULU. The majority of us do not. We do hate the NUS but there are very good reasons for that.

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