Category Archives: 1 – University democracy

Universities and the allure of capital markets | FT Alphaville

Universities are increasingly financialised, but they are still institutions deeply enmeshed with the state – large amounts of their income are made up of government credit afforded to students, as well as direct grants.

They are also, in a post-industrial era, important for the local economies of many towns and cities around the country. Here is Professor Graham Galbraith, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth, on his university’s deal [our emphasis]:

The investment demonstrates confidence in the University’s future as well as the City. The concept designs for the indoor sports facility, which will be first of our new buildings, are stunning and I believe this will be a fantastic asset for the University, our students and staff, as well as for the people of Portsmouth.

The proceeds of university debt are important for the economy of the region itself, as with many private sector acts of borrowing. The question is, for an already quasi-state sector, what does this mean for the prospect of governmental support?

Related links:
The strange economics of the university strikes – FT
The financing of student accommodation – FT
The many problems with a market for higher education – FT

via Universities and the allure of capital markets | FT Alphaville

What Has Happened To Our Pensions? – Ros Altmann

Summary of reasons why pension fund surpluses have disappeared and
are no longer there now that we need them:

1. Nigel Lawson decision to tax pension fund surpluses
2. Successive extra mandatory costs – preservation,
deferred pension revaluation
3. 1995 Pensions Act – MFR, priority order, limited
price indexation
4. Removal of ACT relief
5. Employer contribution holidays
6. Employer use of surpluses for industrial
restructuring
7. Trend to earlier retirement expectations
8. Increasing longevity
9. Actuaries investment and mortality assumptions too
optimistic
10. Benefit enhancements which could not be removed
11. Maturing of schemes (i.e. more pensions needing to be paid as
workers retire)
12. Over-reliance on equity investment
13. Trustees not questioning actuarial advice
14. Plunging stock markets
15. Sharply lower interest rates

via What Has Happened To Our Pensions? – Ros Altmann

Pension strike: university staff are getting a ‘Die Quickly’ pension plan. It won’t work. | British Politics and Policy at LSE

Second, we need to make pension governance accountable. USS is a big, multi-employer pension plan. It should eliminate inflated costs, and take asset management and corporate voting completely in-house. Nobody on its board should have possible conflicts of interest from their professional background: that includes asset managers like JP Morgan, and mining corporations like Rio Tinto. The most successful pension fund is the Church of England scheme, which has done what the asset management industry said was impossible: it made money with ethical investment, and is divesting from fossil fuels. UCU should get a majority of staff representatives on the pension board, and conduct direct elections for USS members. This will strengthen USS and UCU by engaging staff in union and pension policy. When people have a stake and a voice, they will not let go. They are the experts. They will not let anything like this happen again.

via Pension strike: university staff are getting a ‘Die Quickly’ pension plan. It won’t work. | British Politics and Policy at LSE

Is the USS really in crisis? | The Vision of the Pension Playpen

There is a fundamental difference in the methodology between the situation where the scheme is assumed to be open indefinitely and where it is assumed to be getting prepared to close. In the latter case it must find a way of ensuring it is funded at all times, or at least as soon as possible while it can rely on the employer being able to support it. Volatility of the technical ‘deficit’ due to market fluctuations in asset prices represents risk here. The risk is that the scheme will close and the valuation will crystallise with assets values low due to a depressed market, such that they are inadequate to pay the liabilities. Hence the need for recovery payments to meet the cost of covering this risk.

On the other hand, if the scheme is open indefinitely with a strong covenant, it can be assumed it will never need to close. Therefore asset price volatility is not important. The ability of the scheme to pay benefits depends on there being sufficient investment and contribution income coming in. Therefore market volatility is not a source of risk. There is much less risk and therefore the scheme is cheaper because there is no need to cover it. Also the scheme does not need to invest in ‘safe’ assets like gilts for the same reason. An open scheme can, and should rationally, invest in assets that bring the highest return.

via Is the USS really in crisis? | The Vision of the Pension Playpen

Why are UK academics striking? A beginner’s guide — Crooked Timber

First, the current scheme is already a significantly downgraded version of the pension that was promised to all academics who started working in UK universities prior to 2010. Between 2010 and 2016, the old “final salary” scheme (whereby pensioners would get half of their final salary upon retirement) was replaced with a, broadly speaking, “average salary” scheme (whereby pensioners would get half of their average salary upon retirement). In 2010, UUK stopped offering the old scheme to new employees; in 2016, the old scheme was closed altogether. This change was hard enough to swallow, but academics were promised that it would make their pensions “bullet proof” sustainable. Now UUK claims that the scheme is not sustainable after all, which leads to the second reason for being angry. Over and above the question of “who is to blame” and should carry the burden if the scheme is not sustainable in spite of predictions, many experts question the valuations and analyses offered by UUK, arguing that “there is no deficit”, no problem of sustainability, and that the proposed reform is instead driven by an agenda of “aggressive de-risking” aimed at shifting all risk-carrying to employees.

via Why are UK academics striking? A beginner’s guide — Crooked Timber

From a community of scholars to purveyor of degrees: the changing face of the university – Counterfire

via From a community of scholars to purveyor of degrees: the changing face of the university – Counterfire

Towards a Radical Infrastructure: Counter-Reforming Higher Education | Novara Media

via Towards a Radical Infrastructure: Counter-Reforming Higher Education | Novara Media

Towards a Radical Infrastructure: Counter-Reforming Higher Education | Novara Media

via Towards a Radical Infrastructure: Counter-Reforming Higher Education | Novara Media

Governance Model – University of Amsterdam

This policy paper describes the governance model of the University of Amsterdam (UvA). For a well-functioning quality assurance cycle, it is essential that everyone in the University knows who is responsible at what level, and which duties and powers have been delegated throughout the organisation.

It is important not only to clearly describe these responsibilities, duties and powers, but also that all those involved act accordingly. Only then can managers be held accountable and will there be a true culture of quality. The UvA has chosen to describe this structure in its governance model. As well as a description of the allocation of responsibilities, duties and powers, the governance model includes a description of the governance of teaching and participation in decision-making.

via Governance Model – University of Amsterdam

Amsterdam university chief quits over student protests – DutchNews.nl

The student protests at the University of Amsterdam have led to the resignation of management board chairwoman Louise Gunning.

Gunning, who was appointed in 2012, has been under fire for her handling of the dispute, particularly her decision to end the occupation of the university administration centre by sending in riot police.

The student unrest began mid-February when a group of students occupied part of the humanities faculty in the city centre in protest at the lack of democracy at the university and spending cuts.

via Amsterdam university chief quits over student protests – DutchNews.nl

University protests around the world: a fight against commercialisation | Higher Education Network | The Guardian

Students at University of the Arts, London, took over their university’s reception area last Thursday to protest against proposed cuts to some of its course programmes. This makes UAL one of the latest institutions around the world to be hit by occupations and strikes by staff and students. The causes of such protests vary: some are concerned about working conditions facing graduate students, others point to a lack of transparency about how universities are run. A key issue is the commercialisation of higher education, which many feel has led university leaders to prioritise financial goals over the needs of staff and students.

We speak to academics and students in Canada, the Netherlands and the UK to find out why they’re taking a stand.

via University protests around the world: a fight against commercialisation | Higher Education Network | The Guardian

Bungehuis and Maagdenhuis occupations – Wikipedia

The group’s demands included:[9]

Democratic election of the university board
Change of the allocation model: finance based on input, not on efficiency
Cancellation of the current Profiel 2016
Referendums per institute and programme about collaboration between the UvA and the VU at the FNWI (Department of the Sciences)
Fixed contracts instead of flexible staff appointments
An open debate about housing costs in relation to budget cuts of research and education and a cessation of real estate speculation (including a halt to the proposed sale of the Bungehuis building)

via Bungehuis and Maagdenhuis occupations – Wikipedia

What is the relationship between universities and democracy? From the purposes to the uses of university (and back) – Jana Bacevic

Shifting the focus from purposes to uses is not the case, as Latour may have put it, of betraying matters of concern in order to boast about matters of fact. It is, however, to draw attention to the fact that the relationship between universities and democracy is, to borrow another expression from Latour, a factish: both real and fabricated, that is, a social construct but with very real consequences – neither a fact nor a fetish, but an always not-fully-reconciled amalgam of the two. Keeping this in mind, I think, can allow us to think about different roles of universities without losing sight neither of their reality, nor of their constructed nature.

via What is the relationship between universities and democracy? From the purposes to the uses of university (and back) – Jana Bacevic

The University as Public Sphere | Ambrozas | Canadian Journal of Communication

There is a certain parallel between arguments about the decline of the public sphere and the decline of the university today. Both institutions are said to be increasingly fragmented and politicized. In this paper, I mobilize Nancy Fraser’s alternative account of the public in order to defend contemporary political changes in the university, such as affirmative action or women’s studies programs. Such changes are necessary to transform an elite institution into a more democratic one and, in addition, they broaden the scope of our knowledge.

via The University as Public Sphere | Ambrozas | Canadian Journal of Communication

Universities as Sites of Citizenship and Civic Responsibility | International Consortium

Universities as Sites of Citizenship and Civic Responsibility
Project Description and History

The University of Pennsylvania is the organizational center for the Universities as Sites of Citizenship and Civic Responsibility Project, a research project that explores the actual activities of institutions of higher education that support democratic values and practices; assesses their dispositions and capabilities to promote democracy; and examines how the use of university resources can improve the contributions of higher education to democracy on the campus, and in the local community and wider society.

Universities as Sites of Citizenship and Civic Responsibility is a global research project of the International Consortium on Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy. The general academic contributions of this empirical study include:

via Universities as Sites of Citizenship and Civic Responsibility | International Consortium

Community-University Engagement: A Process for Building Democratic … – Tami L. Moore – Google Books

Community-University Engagement: A Process for Building Democratic communities … BOOK By Tami L. Moore

via Community-University Engagement: A Process for Building Democratic … – Tami L. Moore – Google Books

The university, democracy, and the challenge to meritocracy | SpringerLink

Universities can undergird democracy in two ways. First, they can promote and defend truth, which is antithetical to despotism and a natural progenitor of democracy, but they do so only as the university itself is meritocratic and courageous in its adherence to canons of intellectual rigour and academic integrity. Second, universities are, or can be, engines of opportunity and of the ascendence of achievement over ascription—and thus of democratization. However, absent efforts to the contrary, the natural tendency of universities is to perpetuate or even to widen the effects of ascription: for example, social class, race, or gender. A truly democratic university, then, must find ways to select among students and to distribute its benefits in ways that are still meritocratic, but that weaken rather than accelerate the transmission of the status and wealth into which one is born.

via The university, democracy, and the challenge to meritocracy | SpringerLink

Democratic Leadership: Definitions, Examples & Quotes

The democratic leadership style is based on mutual respect. It is often combined with participatory leadership because it requires collaboration between leaders and the people they guide.

The democratic/participative leadership style places significant responsibility on leaders and their staff. This is true for all organizations — from private enterprises and government agencies to educational institutions and nonprofit entities.

Read on to discover more about democratic/participative leadership:

via Democratic Leadership: Definitions, Examples & Quotes

Democratic university a proposal for university governance for the common weal – The British Library

I

t is currently argued that universities are too complex to be governed by anything other than a professional class of managers. The implication is that the governance of universities must be modelled on that of the corporate sector. In response this paper argues that universities are large national civic institutions with a primary responsibility to their own community of academics and learners. The vast majority of university business is domestic, not international. And since universities must be seen to be ‘owned’ by their wider community, a governance model which is based on internal
managerial control does not appear appropriate.

This paper therefore proposes that the long-term strategic role of universities should be protected from radical-change-without-consent by democratising the governance structure. University courts should become bodies wholly elected by the wider university community (staff and students) and the role of the university principal and the senior management team should be to advise that body and to enact its will.

via Democratic university a proposal for university governance for the common weal – The British Library

Dutch student protests ignite movement against management of universities | Higher Education Network | The Guardian

The students’ demands for a “new university” included greater democratisation of university governance, greater transparency of the university’s finances, halting plans to restructure and cut a number of departments, a referendum on plans for departmental mergers with other universities, better conditions and protections for temporary staff, and an end to risky financial and property speculation with university funds.

via Dutch student protests ignite movement against management of universities | Higher Education Network | The Guardian