BUCU statement on University of Birmingham governance

April 13, 2016 § Leave a comment

It is now over a week since we called for a full investigation into the financial affairs of the Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Lord Bilimoria. We remain very concerned about the reputation of the University of Birmingham. Despite several messages from the University management about the apparently “challenging environment for the sector” – no mention whatsoever has been made of the fact that Lord Bilimoria has been the subject of considerable discussion in the international media, as a result of his connections with offshore tax havens.

It is starting to look as if this so-called “challenging environment” is simply something that is conveniently referred to whenever staff seek to maintain their existing pay rates in the face of ongoing inflation – regardless of the University’s earnings or ability to pay – or whenever the University feels a justification for proposed redundancies is needed. In his most recent e-mail our Vice-Principal refers to “increased costs from this year due to pensions (£3.5m a year), National Insurance (£4.4m a year), the apprenticeship levy (£1.5m a year) and for work permits for overseas staff (£182k a year)”, all of which sum up to about £10M, i.e. only about 20% of last year’s surplus, and allowing for a £15-20M investment in a new hotel and conference centre.

A quick google search for Lord Bilimoria reveals that his offshore company – Mulberry Holdings – is a company related to the fallout of his bankrupted earlier company, Cobra Beer. It appears that Lord Bilimoria himself earned £3.2 million in dividends from that company, at the same time as it was about to go bankrupt!

The University’s recent actions, and silences, raise a number of questions that need to be answered:

  • Why has the University of Birmingham issued no statement on the financial affairs of its own Chancellor, despite being the only university chancellor in the country to be exposed by the Panama Papers leak?
  • Why was Lord Bilimoria considered to be a suitable leader of this University in the first place? Who made this decision, and according to what criteria?
  • If we face such a “challenging environment”, then why do we have a Vice Chancellor earning £416,000 per year, one of the highest in the country? Why was our most recent operating surplus £45 million? Why is the average salary of UEB members £145,000?

We would like to encourage you to vote in both of the current UCU ballots ongoing at present – on local industrial action on redundancies, and on national industrial action on pay.

 

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