Students slate VC recruitment forums

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Last week’s Vice-Chancellor recruitment forums have left students feeling “unoptimistic” about the influence their opinion will have on the University’s appointment of a new VC.

Students have also voiced their anger over the fact that student consultation has lasted just under two weeks in a recruitment process that is set to last until Easter 2015.

The forums, which each lasted an hour, asked students what they felt Durham’s strengths and weaknesses are, whether students feel the new VC should be an academic or not and what kind of VC students want.

The President of the Students’ Union, Dan Slavin, led the forums but Perrett Laver, the global executive search firm assisting the University in the recruitment process, set the questions that students could respond to.

Officials from Perrett Laver were unable to attend any of the forums, despite initially agreeing to.

When asked how successful he feels the recruitment forums have been, Dan Slavin said:

“They have gone very well. We worked to ensure that as many students as possible had the opportunity to contribute, in the tight timeline available.

“Students have been open and honest about the issues they really care about. There have been interesting points raised throughout the sessions that will be used to direct the work of the Union.”

Students, however, feel quite differently about the forums.

Harry Cross, a 3rd year at St. Aidan’s College, attended a forum last Monday and told Palatinate:

“I’m not at all optimistic that our opinions will have any significance in the University’s appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor. It’s undoubtedly a good thing that the University is consulting students over this matter but there needs to be more consultation with students and it is not clear how they’ll integrate and properly use student opinion.”

The President of Durham University Feminism Society, Rachel Piper, shared these concerns, saying:

“The University claims that the forums are democratic but we don’t have any say in the final appointment. Universities in the UK and from around the world consult so much more with students so I don’t see why Durham can’t do the same.

“We have no guarantee that our opinions have definitely been taken into account by senior University members of staff.

“This initial consultation is a good sign for students but the University should be consulting with students at every point through the process if this is to be seen as meaningful consultation.”

James Crickmore, a fourth year Natural Sciences student, added:

“We have no guarantee that our opinions have definitely been taken into account by senior University members of staff.”

Marciej Matuszewski also attended a forum last Wednesday and told Palatinate:

“We’re disappointed that Dan Slavin is the only person representing students at the highest level. This means that the student body will have relatively little say over the appointment itself.”

The University plans to have appointed a new VC by Easter 2015, with the successful candidate taking up their position in October 2015.

Photograph: Emma Werner

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