Oxford University blocks staff attempts to challenge pension cuts

The Guardian reports that as the strike by members of the University and College Union (UCU) entered its eighth day, Oxford’s arcane procedures were used to halts efforts to force a resolution on the proposals to downgrade staff pensions that have provoked action at more than 60 campuses.

Staff backing the strikes wanted to suspend standing orders at Oxford’s congregation – a university-wide meeting of staff – held on Tuesday afternoon, and debate the university’s response to a changes proposed to the universities superannuation scheme (USS).

But their efforts were thwarted when more than 20 members objected, to a chorus of boos from the hundreds in the Sheldonian theatre who wanted to proceed.

In an email to staff, Louise Richardson, Oxford’s vice chancellor, said she endorsed the tactics that effectively killed off a wider debate at the meeting.

“I fully understand the depth of feeling on this issue but I have to say that I have been disheartened these past few days by the tenor of some of the debate,” she said. “As a university we take pride in our defence of freedom of speech, in reasoned argument, and evidence based decisions.

“If we are to impart these qualities to our students, we should, at a minimum, practise them among ourselves.”

The UCU will continue with strike action later in the year, which increases the chances of interfering with undergraduates’ final-year results and possibly delaying their graduation.

At Sheffield, its vice-chancellor, Sir Keith Burnett, met with staff on a UCU picket line, while his counterpart at Loughborough, Prof Robert Allison, did the same.

Read more Oxford University blocks staff attempts to challenge pension cuts

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