Protestor fears over uni plans

Concern: Michael MacNeil, UCU head of higher education
Concern: Michael MacNeil, UCU head of higher education
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Hundreds of protestors have signed a petition opposing plans to divide Preston’s university into separate businesses.

Worried workers from the University of Central Lancashire met last night to discuss stepping up their plans to stop proposed restructuring which could see the institution splitting its home and overseas operations.

Union leaders told the meeting of around 120 people, ranging from academics to office workers, that they feared the move would lead to privatisation and have said the plans will “erode scrutiny of the university’s decisions and allow private equity funds a much sought-after route into UK higher education.”

Speakers at the meeting included the University and College Union’s (UCU) head of higher education, Michael MacNeil, Unison’s regional secretary, Kevan Nelson and the TUC regional secretary, Lynn Collins.

The audience was told that although the university would remain a charity, the proposed changes could make it easier for the university to slim down its governance structures “and possibly regroup some or all of its assets into a for-profit subsidiary company.”

UCU head of higher education, Michael MacNeil, said: “We do not believe UCLAN making arrangements with private firms to radically alter its mission is a wise move. These plans seem to be driven by the vice-chancellor, who will become the chief executive of the new company.

“Our universities’ reputations for excellence are built on the fact that education, not profit, comes first.” UNISON’S regional secretary, Kevan Nelson, said: “It is crucial that we continue to work together to defend public services. UNISON is totally committed to safeguarding public education and to ensuring that the educational infrastructure of the North West retains its core commitment to excellence which is open and accountable to local people.

A UCU petition has already attracted 1,200 signatures.

A UCU petitioUNISON will work to maintain educational provision throughout schools, further and higher education which is accessible and driven by public value and public service rather than profit.”

An online petition, set up by UCU has already attracted more than 1,200 signatures from across the country.

Vice-chancellor Malcolm McVicar has previously said that the move was “neither privatisation nor a prelude to privatisation.”

The unions said staff are now hoping to enter in to “constructive dialogue,” with the university.