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Staff warn university as vice-chancellor survives no confidence vote

Workers at the University of Bath have said that vice-chancellor Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell no longer has the support of staff.

Workers at the University of Bath have warned that the institution’s embattled vice-chancellor does not have the support of staff after she narrowly survived a no confidence vote.

A motion of no confidence in Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell was defeated by 19 votes to 16 with two abstentions, in a secret ballot of the university’s senate, which oversees the institution’s academic work.

It came after a report by the university funding watchdog criticised Bath over its handling ofsenior pay.

The university has come under the spotlight in recent months over the pay packet of Dame Glynis, the UK’s highest paid vice-chancellor, who took home £451,000 in 2015/16, including benefits.

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Vice-chancellor salaries row

In a statement after the vote, which took place on Wednesday night, Dame Glynis issued a public apology for the findings of the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) investigation.

Ahead of the senate ballot, a public meeting of university staff unanimously called for Dame Glynis and the chairman of the university’s council, Thomas Sheppard, to resign.

Michael Carley, president of the Bath University and College Union branch, said: “The vice-chancellor and Thomas Sheppard are living in a different reality if they think they have the support of their staff.

“They may have been able to rely on senior management to narrowly survive the senate no confidence vote, but around 400 members of staff voted unanimously for them to go earlier yesterday.

“It has been a very difficult few months at the university and we are astonished that they are trying to cling on, especially after the damning HEFCE report and after staff and students are so clearly demanding change.”

Staff and students are planning to protest at a meeting of the university’s council next week.

HEFCE’s inquiry concluded that Bath’s reputation has been damaged by the way it dealt with a motion put forward in February about the conduct of its remuneration committee, which sets senior salaries, including that of the vice-chancellor.

The resolution, which Bath’s Court – a body of around 200 individuals with links to the university – was asked to vote on, raised concerns at the ”lack of transparency and accountability of the remuneration committee” and the decisions it had made in the past year.

It was defeated, with 30 votes in favour and 33 against. While there were no official records of who voted for or against, some members of the pay committee and those whose pay is decided by it – including Dame Glynis – voted against the motion, HEFCE found.

In her statement after the senate vote, Dame Glynis said: “In relation to the events at the February Court meeting, I completely accept that it was badly managed. However, the most important thing is that I accept that I should not have voted on the motion that was put to Court.

“I made a mistake. I am sorry. You may rest assured that I will never make a mistake like that again.

“In relation to governance of senior remuneration, HEFCE is clear that our processes comply with the basic national guidelines but it is also clear that we should be expecting to do much more to be transparent about these remuneration processes and that some aspects of the process should change.

“I must be clear that, as VC, I do not determine these processes – this is a matter of governance and lies with Council. However, what I can say is that I will be doing everything in my power to ensure that Council does respond positively to the recommendations for change made by HEFCE.”

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