Staff at the Open University are tabling a vote of no confidence in its vice-chancellor, Peter Horrocks.
Horrocks has come under fire over plans to axe staff and cut courses, which were first revealed in the Guardian last week.
The plans include reducing the number of courses, qualifications and modules by more than one-third as well as axing many lecturers – the workforce budget will be cut by £15m-20m. The university is launching a voluntary redundancy programme on 9 April.
The University and College Union (UCU) says Horrocks’s position is untenable as a result of the cuts plans and for claiming that staff were “not teaching” .
Staff will vote on the motion calling for his resignation next Thursday (5 April) at an emergency meeting. The motion of no confidence calls on the vice-chancellor to resign immediately. Staff say that the plans to cut courses by a third and axe hundreds of staff will “destroy” the institution and reduce it to a “digital content provider”.
The union says it believes Horrocks no longer commands the respect or authority of staff or the university council after the latest incidents.
Officials have compared his attack on Open University staff to the time Gerald Ratner described one of his company’s products as “total crap”.
The UCU regional official, Lydia Richards, said: ‘The vice-chancellor’s position now looks untenable and UCU members will vote next week on a motion calling on him to go immediately. His cuts would destroy the Open University as we know it and for him to dismiss axing hundreds of staff as reprioritising is really insulting.
“To follow all that up by attacking his own staff looks like something straight out of the Gerald Ratner textbook. We want a halt to the cuts and a full investigation into how these proposals have been arrived at.
“We have no confidence in the vice-chancellor or that there has been proper scrutiny in developing these plans. The Open University is a fantastic institution with a proud reputation built on the hard work of the staff and its innovative approach to higher education. We need senior staff to be talking it up, not attacking the staff or dismissing serious cuts.”
The motion states: “We have always been open to positive and evidence-based change in delivering innovative learning for our students. This executive meeting has no confidence in either the ‘Students First Transformation Project’ or the current vice-chancellor of the Open University.
“We call upon council to halt this programme and ask the vice-chancellor to resign immediately. We note that the vice-chancellor has publicly undermined the institution by: failing to understand its teaching model or research base, denigrating central academics to the student body, pushing ahead with a detrimental change programme that is not required by the university’s financial position and in which staff have lost trust, creating stress and uncertainty for staff and students by announcing job losses and curriculum cuts on an unnecessary scale.
“We call upon council urgently to take steps to pay heed to Open University staff expertise and strengthen democratic representative structures in the university.”
An Open University spokesman said: “We are midway through an ambitious programme to transform the way we teach our students so that they have the best preparation for the challenges of a rapidly changing world. The plans have sparked a lively internal debate as well as a degree of concern. We can confirm that these concerns will be discussed more thoroughly at a special meeting of the university council and later at the OU’s academic governing body, the senate.”