LSE considers leaving University of London

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE HEADS of the London School of Economics and University College have asked their senior staff whether they want to leave the federal University of London.

They are responding to the decision at the end of last year by Sir Eric Ash, Rector of Imperial College of Science, Medicine and Technology, to consider leaving the federal structure. If Imperial, the LSE and University College left it would lead to the break-up of the University of London.

Derek Roberts, Provost of University College, has written to all heads of academic departments. His proposal is for full university status for University College and other directly-funded institutions. He also wants a new body created by the schools to be the shareholders of residual amenities such as student residences and the University of London students' union.

The question of what might happen to real estate owned by the federal university if individual colleges opted out has now emerged as a serious issue. In a letter to all department heads, Dr John Ashworth, director of the London School of Economics, said: 'We need to develop a school view on our future relationship with the university, the federal structure and the future of the University of London degree.'

He said that no steps had been taken yet 'towards fairer access to the federal estate, and the issue of a fair and appropriate funding mechanism for the University of London library is a live issue'.

Professor Stewart Sutherland, vice-chancellor of the University of London, said that the two college heads were consulting their colleagues about what constitutional changes were appropriate. 'From the evidence I have there is no unanimity of opinion in these colleges,' he said. 'Many people see significant strength in remaining in the federation.'

But he added: 'There are no conscripts in the university.' Colleges which wanted to leave would not be opposed. But there could be considerable financial and property difficulties. 'The court of the university holds significant property assets, which are now being deployed within the whole university,' he said.

An added factor is that Professor Sutherland is up for re-election as vice-chancellor next year. He has to decide whether he will seek a second term and the university must decide whether it wants him. Professor Sutherland is also Her Majety's Chief Inspector of Schools and there has been concern that he might be unable to give as much time as necessary to London because of this other high-profile job.

He said last night that he had not ruled out re-election: 'I want to see through the task of putting the university on a clear footing for the future.' Professor Sutherland said yesterday that all universities should continue to do both teaching and research.

Speaking at the Royal Society, he argued that it was not necessary for every teacher to be a researcher. However, if a subject was fit for university study then it must be capable of development and research.

Academics are concerned that new rules for research funding to be announced by the Higher Education Funding Council for England next week will lead to the creation of teaching-only universities.