The below email has been widely forwarded around the university as it neatly argues that from a legal (as well as moral) standpoint the court should not overrule decisions made by senate about courses, but merely provide financial oversight.
I am a relatively new member of Senate, but I am sure I am not the only member, who having attended the last Senate meeting is somewhat surprised at the decisions of Court which were announced on the front page of the Glasgow Herald yesterday.
At the last Senate meeting the Principal gave us the encouraging news that the University’s financial position was now much healthier than had been expected a few months ago, and that the number of people taking early retirement had been enough to put us well into the black. After that there was a prolonged debate on the proposed new academic structure, with particular attention to the question of Slavonic studies. No vote was taken but the Principal summed up, very fairly I thought, the debate as saying that Senate was not in favour of terminating degree studies in Slavonic studies. When he put it to senate that that was the view of senate, no dissent was voiced.
I read in yesterday’s Herald that the ‘ruling court’ had decided on the opposite course of action and voted to remove Slavonic studies from academic prospectus after September this year.
This surely puts the Principal and administration of the University in an invidious position, as the two governing bodies of the institution have come to directly conflicting decisions. As I understood it, the Court is responsible for ensuring the financial solvency of the institution but can only change the degree programs when acting on the recommendation of the Senate. Since I had only hearsay knowledge of this, I checked the terms of the legislation governing Court powers this morning: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1966/13/schedule/2.
The relevant powers seem to be:
1. On the recommendation of the Senatus Academicus, to regulate and alter the constitution, composition, and number of the faculties and boards of studies, and to create new bodies of the same kind.
2. On the recommendation of the Senatus Academicus, to institute new degrees and to approve regulations made by the Senatus Academicus therefor; to approve any additions or amendments to the regulations for existing degrees and to regulate the length of the academic session.
3. On the recommendation of the Senatus Academicus, to prescribe the conditions under which students may be admitted to the University
I am not in the Law School but it seems pretty clear to me that if the Court attempts to change the degrees offered by the University, or change entrance conditions, it can only do so if it acts as a result of a recommendation of the Senate. Since the Senate a different course of action on Slavonic studies, it must surely be acting outwith the law.
I think that the Senate as a whole could do with some advice from members who are in the Law School as to what procedure there is in place to curtail attempts by statutory bodies like the Court overstepping their powers.
William Paul Cockshott
University of Glasgow