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