Resolution on the potential conflict of interest of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Birmingham

Birmingham UCU have written two letters to the Council of the University, dated 19th January 2018 and 14th February 2018, following a branch mandate that we ask the University to investigate potential conflict of interests affecting our Vice Chancellor, Sir David Eastwood (VC).

These conflicts relate specifically to the VC’s directorship and shareholding in the private company INTO University Partnerships Ltd. BUCU have since been able to confirm that:

–          INTO works to recruit international students by working in partnership with Universities in the UK and the US who would normally be considered as being in direct competition with the University of Birmingham;

–          The 7 directors of INTO, including our VC, earned £1,124,000 in the latest annual accounts for 2017 and that the company as a whole generated a profit before tax of £16.6m. The University Council have refused to disclose what proportion of this relates to our VC;

–          Our VC is also a shareholder and member of a management incentive scheme of INTO so that he stands to profit personally and directly from the performance of INTO;

–          The interest was first declared in August 2015 despite both INTO and the VC being on record stating that he has been involved in INTO since ‘co-founding’ the company in 2005;

–          That the VC has repeatedly failed to declare the interest when student recruitment has been discussed at Council, which breaches paragraph 21 of the University’s Code of Practice;

–          The University’s register of interests was revised to re-state that the directorship is a ‘non-executive’ position during the week of the 15th January 2018, i.e. immediately after we informed the University in our negotiations that we would like them to investigate this relationship and despite the VC stating on the record that the nature of the relationship ‘has not changed’;

From the responses received to our communications we can confirm the position of Council is that:

–          The University will not investigate this issue further and are stating on the record that the University has no working agreements of any kind with INTO;

–          The University thinks it is appropriate for our VC’s involvement with INTO not to have been disclosed on the register of interests prior to August 2015, and for his shareholding and membership of a management incentive scheme in INTO to remain undisclosed altogether;

While investigating this issue it has also come to the attention of BUCU that the University have refused to disclose the amount of charitable donations received from our VC, despite them stating this as a justification for him having one of the highest salaries of any VC in the country, and have failed to respond to our freedom of information request asking them for details of students at the University taken from INTO foundation degrees in a timely manner under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. This, in our view, is yet more evidence of the poor governance, lack of transparency, and lack of democracy at our University.

This motion therefore instructs BUCU to refer this matter externally for full and proper independent investigation. It also calls for our VC to step down until such time as there has been a fully independent review of the governance of the University, of any and all potential conflicts of interests of senior management, and of the processes through which senior management are remunerated.

Adopted 13 March 2018

Resolution on USS dispute

Resolution on USS dispute
The University of Birmingham branch of UCU notes the proposed UUK-UCU ACAS agreement. Whilst we are not currently taking part in the ongoing industrial action, we nevertheless believe that the proposed deal represents a capitulation that should not be accepted given the strength of members’ resolve across the country.

We express our gratitude, support and solidarity with those who have taken strike action so far; and encourage all of our members to contribute to the national fighting fund.

Further, given the widespread support for sustained industrial action in the most recent ballot of University of Birmingham UCU members of those who voted, we call for another re-ballot of our members so that we can take part in the additional 14 days of strike action that have recently been announced and which are timed to go ahead during the exam period, should no agreement between UCU and UUK be reached.

We urge UCU Higher Education Committee to take heed of these demands: unequivocally reject the current proposed deal; and arrange for a second re-ballot of the University of Birmingham branch of UCU.

University of Birmingham branch of UCU, 13 March 2018

Birmingham UCU statement on USS dispute

While it is disappointing for the local branch officers and almost 500 branch members who voted for strike action that we were not able to join the strike we stand in full solidarity with striking UCU members at universities across the country.

We are supporting the strike in every possible way, including social media presence and financial contributions to the UCU fighting fund that supports those on strike and which has already received more than £85K. We are amazed by the enormous solidarity and support shown by students all over the country which shows that staff and students are a unity and form the core of Universities. 17 Vice Chancellors, the media, and politicians, including Jeremy Corbyn, have taken the side of UCU and called for further negotiations.

The group of stubborn hawkish VCs who have taken control of some Universities and UUK are becoming more and more isolated. They have now agreed to further talks. But the question is why now and why not earlier? Why did they wait for a nation-wide escalation until they admitted that their USS figures and data analysis were wrong? This strike is not just about pensions; it shows that the time of autocratic VCs, like our own who is the Chair of USS, and anti-democratic governing bodies which cannot be trusted, including UUK, is over.

Dr Roland Brandstaetter
Branch President
University of Birmingham branch of UCU

Disciplinary cases/student complaints

This branch notes with great concern that the University of Birmingham is instigating and pursuing an increasing number of disciplinary cases against staff under the Ordinances based on student feedback and comments without any formal complaints from students. How to raise concerns and complaints is unambiguously set out in the Code of Practice on Student Concerns  and Complaints (SCC).

This branch regards the use of feedback and comments from students, either deposited anonymously, for example in Module Evaluation Questionnaires, or in person, for the instigation of staff disciplinary procedures, without any formal complaints as set out in the SCC Code, as a breach of trust and confidence.

This branch objects to the use of MEQ data in any disciplinary and complaints procedures – and notes the negative impact on equality.

This branch calls on the University of Birmingham to refrain from instigating disciplinary proceedings against staff under the Ordinances based on any student comments or feedback if no formal complaints have been filed and to adhere to the Code of Practice for Student Concerns and Complaints. This branch also calls on the University to immediately withdraw any such ongoing disciplinary cases.

Should the University not constructively engage with this resolution this branch instructs its negotiators to refrain from any further negotiations with the University until the above demands have been met to the satisfaction of the branch.

Resolution adopted 15 November 2017

University communications

This branch is highly concerned about the wording of recent e-mail communication of the University with staff (e.g. UoB Matters e-mail of 15th September 2017) in which the University accused BUCU of unsubstantiated communication about disciplinary procedures at the University of Birmingham.

This branch rejects this slanderous statement and calls on the University leadership to refrain from any further attempts to discredit BUCU with immediate action and to revert to professional conduct in regard of the University’s communication with their staff.

Resolution adopted: 11 October 2017

Code of Practice on Lecture Capture at UoB

This branch rejects the unilateral imposition of a Code of Practice on Lecture Capture at the University of Birmingham. We call for a proper negotiation with UCU, in drafting an agreed Code of Practice. This should deal with the serious issues that have been raised by UCU, including:

  • Copyright and intellectual property
  • Disciplinary procedures
  • Distribution, downloadability and retention of videos

Resolution adopted: 11 October 2017

BUCU Gender Equality Update

UCU members may remember the BUCU report on gender and governance which compared the compositions of the Executive Boards, Senate and Councils (or equivalents) of Russell Group Universities for the academic year 2012-13.

Our University did not do very well in this comparison. It was ranked 24th out of 24 both for Senate and Council and 18th out of 24 for the Executive Board.

Two years on and after the Year of Equality, we thought it would be interested to see what, if any, progress has been made (all information on UEB, Council and Senate was taken from the University of Birmingham’s website on the 15th April 2015).

Executive Board

In 2012-13, out of the thirteen members of the University Executive Board, ten were male (77%) and three were female (23%). Since then, four people (2 men and 2 woman) have left their posts and have been replaced by three men and one woman.

We are therefore now in a situation where UEB comprises eleven men (85%) and two women (15%).

  1. Does UEB have a more equal gender balance after the Year of Equality?
  2. No.

BUCU awaits with baited breath to see what happens with the two vacancies that have arisen this academic year.


In 2012-13, 83% of Council members were male and 17% female; in 2014-15, this has improved somewhat so that 71% of Council members are male and 29% female (see Table 1).

This would place the University, ceteris paribus, joint 14th out of 24 in the 2012-13 Council rankings.

  1. Does Council have a more equal gender balance after the Year of Equality?
  2. Yes, good progress has been made but 29% female membership is still two percentage points below the 2012-13 Russell Group Council average.


Table 1: Council Membership by Gender

Council Membership
  Lay Members (%) Academic Members (%) Student Members (%) Total (%)
Male 11 (79%) 4 (80%) 0 (0%) 15 (71%)
Female 3 (21%) 1 (20%) 2 (100%) 6 (29%)



In 2012-13, 81% of Senate members were male and 19% female; in 2014-15, this has again improved somewhat so that, excluding vacancies, 72% are male and 28% female. This figure would be even more impressive if student members were excluded, as 100% of student members are currently male, compared with 60% two years ago.

This would again place the University, ceteris paribus, joint 14th out of 24 in the 2012-13 rankings.

However, this total figure does not tell the whole story. If we look at the breakdown of Senate membership in Table 2, we can see that the increase in the percentage of female members is being driven almost entirely by an increase in the number of elected female members (55% now in comparison to 30% in 2012-13). Male and female Ex Officio membership remains the same and the number of women who have either been nominated by Heads of College or co-opted by the VC has risen from one to two.

  1. Does Senate have a more equal gender balance after the Year of Equality?
  2. Yes, good progress has been made but 29% female membership is still two percentage points below the 2012-13 Russell Group Council average and the rise has almost nothing to do with whom the Heads of Colleges nominate or the VC co-opts.


Table 2: Senate Membership by Gender

Senate Membership
  Ex Officio (%) Nominated/Co-opted (%) Students (%)* Elected (%)^ Total (%)
Male 9 (90%) 17 (89%) 5 (100%) 5 (45%) 36 (72%)
Female 1 (10%) 2 (11%) 0 (0%) 11 (55%) 14 (28%)
* Excludes 1 vacancy; ^ Excludes 4 vacancies



Thanks to the Times Higher Education and their annual pay survey, we are now in a position to compare the gender pay gap for Russell Group Universities. As can be seen in Figures 1 and 2, in this regard, the University of Birmingham is doing pretty well.

At the professorial level, female professors are paid just under one percent less than their male counterparts are. This is much lower than the average professoriate gender pay gap for Russell Group universities. Birmingham are ranked 4th out of 24 in this regard.

Looking at academics as a whole, the picture is less rosy. The gender pay gap for the University of Birmingham is nearly 15%. This is quite a large gap but only very slightly above average for the Russell Group. Birmingham are ranked 12th out of 24 in this regard.

It is not possible to offer comparisons for the category ‘Other Senior Academic’ (which previously was called ‘Academic Managers’) because universities with seven or fewer female and/or male ‘other senior academics’ did not have to return data for that sub-category (although the fact that Birmingham has more than seven male ‘other senior academics’ and seven or fewer female ‘other senior academics’ should be noted).

Figure 1: Professorial Gender Pay Gap Expressed as a Percentage


Figure 2: Total Academic Gender Pay Gap Expressed as a Percentage



‘Other Senior Academic’ Pay

However, before we get too congratulatory on pay and uncork the champagne, let us have a closer look at the pay of ‘other senior academics’ across the Russell Group.

Figure 3 shows us the average pay of all members of staff within the ‘Other Senior Academic’ category for each Russell Group university (Cambridge and Newcastle are not included in the data below because no figures were provided for these institutions in the survey). The figure for Birmingham is £154,218. This is by far the highest figure and completely out of kilter with other Russell Group universities. The Birmingham figure is £56,625 higher than the average and £34,521 higher than the second institution on the list, University College London. Indeed, if the figures took into account London weighting, the difference between Birmingham and the rest would be even wider.

This picture perhaps becomes even clearer if we look at Figure 4 which shows the percentage difference from the average figure for all Russell Group universities (the green lines indicate the boundaries of standard deviation). Birmingham sticks out like a very sore, very big and very much overpaid thumb.

Under any circumstances, this situation would be notable and of deep concern. Given that, under current circumstances, the University of Birmingham is still not a Living Wage Employer, the Barber Institute has recently been named and shamed for not paying the minimum wage, University senior management receive consistently poor results in the Staff Have Your Say Survey, and redundancies and cutbacks are taking place across the University, these figures are both absolutely inexplicable and utterly disgraceful. They also suggest that the University’s Remuneration Committee should be sacked in its entirety and that the Council should seriously consider whether it is undertaking properly its duties with regard the oversight of finances, budgets and performance within the University of Birmingham.

Figure 3: Average Pay of ‘Other Senior Academic’ Staff in Russell Group Universities


Figure 4: Percentage Difference from Average ‘Other Senior Academic’ Pay in Russell Group Universities (with Standard Deviation Shown)