College heads block debate over university break-up: Academics oppose plans that could abolish single London degree

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The Independent Online
THE HEADS of London University's colleges have joined forces to block a debate which could lead to the break-up of the university.

Stewart Sutherland, vice- chancellor of the federated University of London, will be asked to withdraw a paper in which he proposes such a break-up. It was due to be discussed at the Senate meeting on 7 July.

At a recent meeting of senior officers of the university academic council and selected heads of colleges, Professor Sutherland was told that it was in the best interests of the university to withdraw the paper.

Geoffrey Alderman, chairman of the academic council, is to put this to the collegiate council today, which will decide how the paper should be dealt with - if at all - at the July senate.

Professor Sutherland voiced surprise last night at the suggestion that he withdraw his paper. 'I told the last meeting of Senate that I would put the paper to them, along with any comments that we had received on it, so that we can then decide what to do with it.' He declined to say whether this meant that his proposals would be voted on or merely discussed.

The paper puts forward three alternatives. Option A would incorporate changes approved by Senate last December, which give heads of schools greater control over their colleges, while remaining within the federation.

Option B - the most radical - would allow individual colleges to award their own degrees and become universities in their own right. This was proposed by the heads of the eight largest colleges, and would lead either to the break-up of London University or to a complex system of universities within a university.

Option C would allow the eight larger colleges to award their own degrees as part of the university so, for example, graduates from Imperial College would receive the degree of BSc (London, Imperial).

Mr Alderman said it was clear that many academics, as well as the students, wanted to keep the federated university, with its single prestigious degree. He said the paper cut across university statutes and that if it were presented to Senate, and option C approved, he would appeal on the ground of illegality.

Students plan to lobby the council meeting today. At University College, 94 per cent of students voted to remain part of the university, and at Queen Mary and Westfield College, the fourth largest, 84 per cent were against change.

Graham Zellick, principal of QMW, would like his college to be independent; he said it was already a university institution in all but name. But he said the July Senate might not be the best time to handle Professor Sutherland's paper.