Vice-chancellor who spent more than £1,000 of university money on pet dog faces opposition from students and academics over potential job cuts

University of Surrey ‘saddened’ by opposition from students and staff towards leadership

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Monday 20 May 2019 20:11
Max Lu, University of Surrey vice-chancellor
Max Lu, University of Surrey vice-chancellor

Students and academics have delivered successive votes of no confidence in a vice-chancellor who spent £1,600 of university cash on his dog and warned staff of potential job cuts.

Professor Max Lu, who earns more than £360,000 as vice-chancellor of the University of Surrey, has faced opposition after telling staff that compulsory redundancies could not be ruled out.

Academics delivered a vote of no confidence in him and the university’s executive board – before students ruled that the university’s leadership was not good enough in a separate poll.

More than four in five (84 per cent) of the students who took part in a referendum said they did not believe the performance and leadership of the university governing bodies were satisfactory.

It came after 96 per cent of members of the University and College Union (UCU), who voted over plans to save money, said they had no confidence in the vice-chancellor and the board.

An email from Professor Lu, one of the best paid university bosses in England, in February said Brexit uncertainty, an increasingly competitive market to recruit students, and rising pension costs had led to a budget deficit of more than £15m a year.

Students and staff were left angry by the comments after the university paid £1,600 to Professor Lu to bring his maltese dog over from Australia in 2016 as part of a £15,000 relocation expenses claim.

Alex Harden, University of Surrey Students’ Union president, told The Independent: “It’s clear that more needs to be done to ensure that stakeholders across the university can effect positive change.

“The vote is an opportunity for the leadership of the university to reflect and we will be working together to chart out a positive route forward.”

Michael Moran, UCU regional official, said: “Staff are unconvinced by the case put forward by the university to justify these swingeing cuts as this damning vote of no-confidence makes clear.

“We want a full transparent examination of the university’s case and we want assurances in place now to remove the spectre of uncertainty hanging over staff.”

A University of Surrey spokesperson said the union had not responded to concerns raised about the accuracy of the voting process and added that the turnout of their vote had not been made public.

But they added: “We are of course sad that any number of staff voted this way. And, while the student vote turnout was 14 per cent, we’re equally saddened at the result.

“Like many universities, we face significant challenges which mean we have had to make difficult decisions to save money. However, we have now achieved the required savings target of £15m and have placed the university on a much more secure footing.”

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The university has no plans for compulsory redundancies at this time, the spokesperson added.

A UCU spokesperson added that the university “should be focussing its efforts on trying to win back the trust and respect of staff, not looking for ways to belittle their very serious concerns”.

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