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Letter to David Willetts

Published: 5th March, 2018

Dear David Willetts

We are writing to ask you to stand down as Chancellor Elect with immediate effect, as an act of good faith in the wider interests of the University of Leicester.

As you know, your appointment as Chancellor did not arise as a result of consultation with our university staff or with students. You were neither nominated in an open and transparent way, nor were you chosen through a process where we, students and staff at the University, were given a voice, as is the case in a growing number of universities in the UK – the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, Manchester and Edinburgh are a few such examples. Rather, you were appointed behind closed doors by members of University Court of the University of Leicester. Ironically, many members of this particular body are themselves appointees of the senior management at the University of Leicester; there is one elected student member, Amy Moran, the current President of the University of Leicester Student Union; she objects to your appointment as our Chancellor.

We would also like to remind you that in a petition started by the Leicester University Students’ Union, there are over 3400 signatures calling for the University of Leicester to re-consider your appointment as Chancellor. In that petition, this appointment is regarded as ‘an insult to Leicester students’ by the University of Leicester Student Union. There have also been numerous actions protesting your appointment, including an occupation (something that has not happened since the 1970s in Leicester). These actions have been attended by many students and staff, and they express the discontent of a vast majority of us.

The Chancellor of a university occupies a symbolic position. It is therefore all the more important that you realise the strength of feeling against your appointment – sentiments that have several sources, including: your views on universities; your role in tripling tuition fees whilst Minister for Universities; your promotion of the marketisation of higher education; your backing of extortionate pay for university vice-chancellors and other senior managers (practically turning the position from educationalists into company CEOs); your views on women (creating a false dichotomy between the struggles of women and working-class men – your analysis of which would not pass a peer review process); and your voting record on LGBT issues (your votes against the equalisation of the age on consent for homosexual acts and against the Adoption and Children Bill — Suitability Of Adopters). The ‘impact agenda’ you introduced has also paved the way for publicly funded science (through the Research Councils) to be made easily and freely available for private business – i.e. a transfer from the public purse to the private.

We ask you to consider the wider interests of the University of Leicester and the strong voice of our students and staff who do not wish your presence at our degree ceremonies or for you to represent our university in any other form.

In simple terms, even though you will undoubtedly disagree with our reasons, we would like you to recognise that you are never going to be an appropriate representative figurehead for our university. We would like you to stand down with immediate effect.