Edinburgh University students call for Sir Peter Mathieson’s resignation in EUSA vote

95 per cent of students voted for the motion proposed by the Student Council

On Thursday night, an EUSA Student Council motion to formally call for Sir Peter Mathison’s resignation was overwhelmingly approved, with 95 per cent of students voting to pass it.

The motion calls for an overhaul of the university’s management, including replacing Sir Peter Mathieson as Principal and prioritizing student voice in the next iteration of university leadership.

According to EUSA, the vote is an important expression of student voice and represents the student body’s growing dissatisfaction with the university’s senior management.

At the Student Council meeting, students criticised the “disgustingly high” salaries of the Senior Leadership Team, especially considering the cost-of-living crisis and recent strikes over staff pay and pensions.

Principal Mathieson is also accused of violating the university’s travel policy, spending £13,000 on business class flights in 2022. The Council alleges he showed “flagrant disregard” for student voice, when he allowed an on-campus screening of controversial women’s rights documentary, Adult Human Female. They reprimanded his alleged “lack of interaction with the student body.”

The proposed timeline set in the motion would see Sir Peter Mathieson resign in June 2024, which leaves time for a new vice-chancellor to be selected in consultation with the student body.

The Staff Student Solidarity Network Edinburgh (SSSN) praised the vote, releasing a statement after the results saying “[Principal Mathieson] is the epitome of the capitalist university model, earning £406,000 while the rest of staff struggles with low wages and casualisation.” Adding, “pushing Mathieson to resign is not enough and might just mean that a similar cruel man will take his place” and “students have the power to create change […] we’ll stand against senior management’s cruelty, [b******t] and ignorance.”

A University of Edinburgh spokesperson told the Edinburgh Tab: “We know there is more work to be done,” adding that they “continue to listen to feedback to identify areas where we can deliver positive changes that benefit our community.”

However, some students had misgivings about the motion’s effectiveness, claiming despite their dissatisfaction with the university’s leadership, they “don’t think motion will be successful.”

One student said the Council should aim to influence those who can “force the hand of the Principal” and encourage him to “buy into [their] struggle.”

Other students didn’t think the motion went far enough, saying they should “get an opinion poll posted on the Edinburgh tab if you want an actual view of student opinion.” 

A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said: “We note the outcome of the EUSA vote. We know that the experience of many of our students has been shaped by a period of unprecedented challenges, including a global pandemic, cost of living rises and industrial action.

“We place great importance on listening to and responding to our students’ voices. We include student representatives at all levels of the University’s management and governance so they can contribute to all decision making: two sabbatical officers from EUSA are members of Court – the University’s governing body; the EUSA President is a member of the University Executive – the University’s strategic decision-making body; and thirty elected students form part of our Senate –  the University’s supreme academic body. There is also student voice at College and Schools committee, course boards and Student-Staff Liaison through the EUSA programme of course representatives.

“Hearing from our students is critical to enhancing our student experience and this continues to be our priority. We have introduced a brand new model of student support to provide students with dedicated pastoral and academic guidance when and where they need it and so that they know we are here for them. We have also increased and streamlined student support funding for those who are experiencing financial hardship. We are also seeking ways for students to participate in community events, have more access to study spaces, and working to make academic administration easier. We know there is more work to be done and we continue to listen to feedback to identify areas where we can deliver positive changes that benefit our community.

“We recognise the stress that industrial action has placed on our students and staff in recent times and we acknowledge that this national dispute is not resolved. We continue to engage in conversations with UCU Edinburgh on other employment matters which are within our local control and where we can make improvements in the ways we support our staff at the University of Edinburgh. We are committed to a fair offering for staff and offer many generous staff benefits, including excellent flexible working and family friendly policies.”

The university also noted that:

  1. The Principal’s current residence was a gift donated to the University in 2015. The University and the donor agreed that the funding released from the sale of the previous residence would be allocated to create an endowment for access bursaries for students.
  2. As well as representation at the University’s management level, through the EUSA programme of course representatives, there is student voice present on College and Schools committees, course boards and a number of executive committees.

Sir Peter Mathieson is yet to comment on the vote personally.

Cover image via YouTube

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