A response to John Raftery’s letter in The Guardian (9th August):
The Vice-Chancellor of London Metropolitan University, John Raftery, performs several sleights-of-hand when presenting evidence for the institution’s supposed upward trajectory (‘London Metropolitan University is on the rise, not in decline’). For instance, the “all-time high” student satisfaction scores he mentions were acheived with staffing levels that are now being cut by a third. Over 100 lecturing staff will be informed of their redundancy in the coming weeks. In one illustrative example, the School of Psychology increased its student satisfaction rating from 74% to 97% in the latest National Student Survey, with the equivalentf of 17.8% full-time staff. That staff complement is now being cut to an ‘optimum’ 7.1.
Raftery also states that London Met has more black students than the five Russell Group institutions in London combined. This is less impressive when you remember that London Met used to have more black and ethnic minority students than all 24 Russell Group institutions combined. All credit to those universities for improving, but also bear in mind that London Met used to have over 30,000 students. Raftery is currently overseeing a reduction in numbers from 13,000 to 10,000. We are still a vital widening participation university, but these figures are telling.
Raftery, like the HE Bill of the current Conservative government he is aping, reduces quality to questionable metrics (‘TEF is an unreliable test for university teaching‘) whilst overseeing the shrinking and denuding of everything that truly defines a critical widening participation higher education.
Thankfully, UCU members at London Met are not fooled by the spin. They have just voted 3:1 to move to a strike ballot in September, and 6:1 to call on the national union to commence greylisting (boycott) of London Met from October. The Board of Governors must now step in to stop the destruction of a vital university, by halting these unnecessary staff cuts and rescinding the victimisation of the university’s union officers.
Mark Campbell, London Region UCU (HE Chair) and London Met UCU North Branch Chair
David Hardman, London Region UCU Secretary and London Met UCU North Branch Secretary