Athene Donald, the Master of Churchill College Cambridge has written a letter to Alistair Jarvis at UUK. It talks of clarity and is a model of clarity. It expresses in a few word, a concern voiced several times on this blog, most irascibly by Mike Otsuka in his “rotten boroughs” blog.
Dear Mr Jarvis
I am writing to you on behalf of the Fellows of Churchill College to seek clarification of the role played by the responses of Oxbridge Colleges to the UUK/USS survey sent out in September. Press commentary and quotations of statements made by UUK give no detail about how responses from different institutions were evaluated. In addition, UUK has claimed that it has support for its position from USS employers, presumably on the back of the survey. It should be noted that the word I use, survey, is the one UUK/USS itself used, although it is now being referred to as if it had been a formal consultation on which you were able to form a definitive view.
My own college, like many others in Cambridge, did not respond at all. The time offered, particularly given it was the vacation, did not permit us to consult properly within the College and so we felt it would be inappropriate to respond. However, it has not been spelled out how many colleges were actually able to formulate a properly constituted response and it is becoming increasingly clear that of those that did send in a response several highlighted that it did not correspond to a view based on a formal college consultation. As a consequence of the obscure, and possibly misleading way in which college responses have been referred to, the sector beyond Oxbridge is understandably concerned.
In order for me to be able to reassure my fellowship that the UUK conclusions were properly reached based on college responses, I would therefore like the following questions to be answered:
How were the responses from different institutions weighted? Was the weight based on numbers of employees and pensioners, University financial position, or some other set of criteria?
How were non-authorised responses weighted compared with those for which there has been full consultation?
What weight was given to replies from non UUK institutions (such as Oxbridge Colleges) compared with those from UUK employers?
Transparency is necessary if trust in the dialogue is to be rebuilt. Currently the lack of clarity on these questions – as indeed on many others – is destabilising the entire sector to everyone’s cost.