The newly appointed Chancellor wishes there were no cap on tuition fees, considers the living wage a luxury (certainly not in line with YUSU’s position following the referendum on the matter), and was appointed with only laughable student consultation. None of this is new, there have already been revelations in this paper about all of this.
For some further information on Malcom Grant, he was the former Provost and President at UCL. He was also the first person who held this post to be subject to a Vote of No Confidence motion – only holding his position by a few hundred votes. He has already proven to be a divisive figure and not exactly someone who screams: “let’s represent the student body as a whole!”
What are Grant’s ties to York? Former Chancellor Greg Dyke is an alumnus who cared deeply about students – multiple discussions with various sabbatical officers throughout my time at York said he would often turn to them at meetings to ensure that they could properly represent the student views on whatever issue was being discussed. His final gift to York, the soon to be completed Greg’s Place is a testimony to his love of this University.
There were, in my eyes, so many better candidates for Chancellor. Former students who have excelled include several MPs from across the parties, distinguished playwrights, and scientists all of whom would feel a genuine tie to the University. Other candidates less tied to the University but more to the city would have been some of York’s more famous residents such as Dame Judy Dench or Jocelyn Bell Burnell. The former is more famed for her incredible contribution to acting and the latter for her work in astrophysics, discovering the pulsar star! Even my own personal hero of the city, Tommy Fong, has far deeper ties to the University of York than Grant. Now maybe Malcolm Grant was approached after all of these candidates and was only the 13th choice but as the University appointed him behind closed doors we may never know.
As Chancellor he is the public face of our institution and a public face I certainly am ashamed of. In 2011 he was appointed by Andrew Lansley to chair the NHS Commissioning Board and preside over its funding; half the select committee voted against his appointment and he was only saved by the vote of its Tory Chair. He was appointed to oversee the hatchet job to the NHS that has been happening over the past four years – when asked to demonstrate he cared for the NHS, a basic requirement of his role one would assume, he admitted it would be difficult as he didn’t even use it.
The cuts to the National Health Service, radically opposed by those who use it and those who serve in it, are not the only ones he has championed. While in UCL he used his position to impose massive reductions in academic support and teaching to bring in one of the best paid managements in the country. This is not a man who cares about Higher Education but rather cares about looking after his own. Under Grant, UCL’s staff:student ratio, previously second to only Oxbridge was shattered and the famed 1:1 tutorials in its English department became nothing but history. He presided over massive fee rises for postgraduate students, seeing them as cash-cows and nothing more. An MSc in the Electronics Department for a home student at York is currently a little over £6000 – in UCL it is £10,000.
Grant has also been the Chair of the Russell Group Universities, and while in this role he consistently lobbied for higher tuition fees, not just being an advocate of them but using a position of power within UK academia to try and bring them about.
I remember graduating in July before coming back for my Masters and the Vice-Chancellor Koen Lamberts said in his speech that part of being a part of UoY is standing up to injustice wherever you see it and making it a better world for all. But when Grant was at UCL he claimed the London Living Wage was a luxury he couldn’t afford, and a year after being shamed in the press made him ‘promise’ to implement it, he had still refused to, all while over 300 staff at UCL were on 6-figure salaries. I feel it hypocritical for Koen to be part of bringing this man to York.
During Grant’s tenure at UCL he used the courts to evict people who had been willing to co-operate from legitimate, non-violent protests. He began legal proceedings against two students that led to them being arrested by plain clothes police in their student accommodation and when two other students simply questioned Grant about his record on the London Living Wage and student debt at a public lecture, he had them fined in what UCL’s SU correctly described as a “politically motivated” use of UCL’s disciplinary process.
I hope when I graduate I have Koen Lamberts hosting again, because while we’ve been at odds with each other on certain issues, we’ve disagreed without being disagreeable. I’ll be sure to have another fun graduation – albeit the night not finishing in Willow. However, if it’s Grant hosting I’ll be sat in Central Hall not focusing on enjoying myself but desperately trying to keep my protest down to just not shaking his hand.