Advisory and Negotiation Committees for Biomedicine
" (e) Merger is not seen as a prerequisite for achieving these desirable changes and a consequential improved financial position. UCL Biomedicine would expect to see such changes implemented from within UCL under the direction of the present Provost and a successor equally committed to the future development of the College. Co-operation in many areas with IC should be encouraged."
Click here for the full Biomedicine report
Report from Physics,Astronomy,Space &Climate Subject Group
"The strongly felt view of the subject group members and of staff,after considerable consultation within the departments,is that the risks of a full teaching,estates and research merger substantially outweigh the benefits,but that there are attractive long-term prospects for interdisciplinary research collaboration."
Click here for the full Physics report (pdf format)
Issues on merger for Library Services
Advisory Team for Teaching and Learning
The Chair outlined the role of the AHSS Advisory Group as designated to give advice to the Sub-Group for Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences (Co-chaired by Professors Worton and Birley). To carry out this role the Team should:
Concentrate on the key issue; the advantages/disadvantages of merger
Consider the Sub-Group's 'key questions', but not regard these as exhaustive
Be a forum for free and frank discussion where Departments could articulate their thoughts.
The next meeting scheduled for 19 November is after the deadline for the Sub-Board's Reports; it was agreed that this would be a useful forum to take forward any further issues.
7. The benefits of merger are difficult for those Departments to assess which are not directly affected, (i.e. have no IC counterpart). The Vision Statements are a wish list. There is little real sense of the opportunities or practical benefits and some Vision Statements could be written outside the framework of the proposed merger.
8. The Team agreed that there was an information vacuum on such things as benefits in funding and space allocation, which made it difficult to see the role of AHSS in the new institution.
9. AHSS should be conscious of their potential as an important pillar of the new community and that in this context all subject groups could expand and be strengthened.
10. The possibility of partnership with other institutions should also be considered: why IC? The identity of AHSS Departments could disappear in a strongly science led institution. As only 8% of a new University it would be difficult to sustain an identity; the AHSS area would need to be significantly larger, 15% or more.
11. The Team raised the fear of possible sale of property on the Gower Street Campus (increasing in value post the Kings Cross rail link), as a source of revenue.
12. The assumption that AHSS Departments could expand if they wished should not go unquestioned; the issue of adequate recourses for expansion has not been fully explored and some clear evidence on issues such as space and staffing would aid discussion. At the moment the benefits to AHSS are being presented in too generalised terms; once a merger goes through Departments may be back in competition for resources and the AHSS may not be beneficiaries.
13. The Team agreed that it would be useful to see a business plan for the merger and to have information on the extensive 'due diligence' process being undertaken.
14. Library: the UCL Library needs more space and there is no more room on the Gower Street site. The Library has to find 1.5 miles of shelving per year and is also down the list of UK HEI Library spend. Colleagues at IC have indicated there is very little room in South Ken, so it is difficult to see how more Library space could be realised.
15. Agreed that Sir Richard Sykes be invited to come and speak with the Advisory Team and that members should send their questions in preparation to Professor Bridge. It would be helpful to record the discussion.
16. Language Departments are struggling to maintain numbers against a drop in language teaching in schools; there are fears that the merger would result in 'service language teaching' and that UCL staff would be redeployed. This would be a grotesque use of language teachers and is a genuine and widespread concern.
17. For the Department of Economics the merger presents potential opportunities, but these are difficult to evaluate in the absence of a business plan.
To not go ahead might place UCL in a poor competitive position
The merger presents an opportunity for change and for some areas of programme development to move ahead
There is some synergy with IC environmental sciences
'Do nothing' could mean that opportunities are missed.
18. Laws would also resist any move towards 'service teaching', and would consider the Faculty in a strong enough position to say 'no'. There are also potential development opportunities for Laws.
19. The Team noted that there was no clear indication that the merger would solve the current financial crisis. The Provost has indicated that the UCL current deficit may now be only £4M, but there is as yet no accurate costing of the merger although £100-£200M has been mentioned. The Team expressed concern that there would be a drain on revenue short term post merger.
20. Downsizing: the Team considered that the possible reduction in staff, both academic and administrative was not being addressed openly. The statement that there would be no forced redundancies was beginning to lack credibility.
21. The Departments of Anthropology and Geography are concerned that their specialist areas could be broken up. Geography can see the possibilities in strategic alliance for environmental work, but Environmental Science is perceived as a weak IC Dept and in RAE terms not desirable as a merger partner.
22. Tuition Fees: the Chair advised the team that the issue of tuition fees was really outside the merger and that the delayed Government White Paper would indicate national policy. The CSR had indicated that there would be an increased spend on sciences in 2004/5 and thus a substantial benefit to the new University.
23. Some Departments, (Laws, Economics, French, Institute of Archaeology) would welcome the opportunity for expansion of staff and PG students, but this was not anchored in merger.
24. Most departments would strongly favour co-location.
25. The Team noted that AHSS was not a potential high revenue earner, but that these areas could benefit from re allocation of resource. Should the new engineering building not be required for the engineers, there would be an area for the possible development of the Library.
26. An opportunity to totally overhaul the Finance System was a benefit, but the move to a Recourse Allocation Model is already being undertaken and is not driven by merger.
28. Uncertainty about relationships with the Federal University of London. The following serious concerns were raised:
IALS is used extensively by Laws, and any loss of access would be very serious
The SAS is very important to Departments in AHSS area
History shares resources with other London Colleges and these would need to be maintained by re negotiation
Classics has extensive inter collegiate work and this would also be threatened
Philosophy is an intercollegiate programme, some discussions on the implications of merger have taken place, but the level of reassurance it has received on continued co-operation post merger does not convince the Department. Secession from the University of London would be very problematic
. The interdepartmental MA in Film Studies, which is supported by four other colleges would have no advantage in a link with IC.
29. Risks: the team noted that a level of risk was already being experienced as Laws had lost a potential Masters development. Also small Departments need to be sustained by partnerships and these were being put at risk.
30. The future relationship with University of London Library is particularly important; the collection is necessary to UCL which has 6300 registered members. UCL pays the major subscription and this investment could be lost. There is a case for the new institution to run the Library. The merger presents both a significant opportunity and potential for disaster.
31. The Team agreed that an alternative model to merger should be considered:
One that was not 'competitive'; merger might make some AHSS departments appear too small to attract students
A collaborative model of subject areas across the University of London would not be the status quo and would provide support for growth 'inter college'.
AHSS could provide a powerful group within the University of London.
32. Agreed that secession form the University of London was on the whole undesirable for AHSS.
34. Certain AHSS areas should be 'ring fenced' against re distribution in any merger, it should not be an opportunity for internal dismembering but for constructive collaboration.
35. There is a real threat of loss of distinctiveness. Merger would result in 'MIT' image, not 'Harvard'.
36. In the view of the Team the mood of the College had changed; merger was no longer a bright vision and there must be other ways forward, the community was not being offered a 'plan B'. The merger discussions may well have damaged the prospect of recruiting a new Provost.
37. The Team expressed doubts as to the choice of IC as a partner, and felt this had originated with Sir Richard Sykes.
38. A 'show stopper' might well be the loss of staff morale, only staff good will could make the merger work, and also that students and alumni were against the merger.
Relations with the University of London and with other colleges
'Brand' and image of AHSS Departments
A sense of being submerged in a science led institution
how the merger appears to the students and alumni and potential sponsors
The sense that we have been caught at a vulnerable moment, (finance and issues around the post of Provost); there may be other possibilities
The sense that merger may be inspired by the wrong reasons.
40. In any negotiations we must be clear who we are (a great international research-led University) and be clear what we want. The team concluded that there was a case for a vote of confidence in the future of UCL.
The filtering effect in action
Compare paragraphs 33 - 40 of the Advisory team report (above) with the summary of it written a day later (Merger Board Minutes, 7th November, 2002),
'3.1.3 Academic: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. Joint Chairs – Professor Birley and Professor Worton. The sub-group, in conjunction with its advisory teams, has formulated a set of questions to which responses from each department have been sought. No showstoppers have been identified as yet.' (our emphasis)
Is that a fair summary?
At the meeting of the Merger Advisory Committee Biomedicine Sub-Board on November 12th, 2002, the potential advantages and disadvantages for Biomedicine of the proposed UCL-IC merger were considered. Following our initial interest, and with a very real wish for broad discussion concerning the implications of merger, we have now come to a point where we are unconvinced that the advantages of merger are outweighed by the disadvantages. Where potential advantages were identified, it was examined whether a merger, rather than cooperation without merger, was actually needed to obtain the advantage. A consensus view was reached on how the merger would affect research, teaching, administrative structures and financial income, as detailed below. In addition a consensus view on how the biomedicine community at UCL views the potential merger was agreed, and a potential way forward for the future was developed.
Faculty of Clinical Sciences UCL and IC have clinical researchers working in related areas, but there is little opportunity for relocation of teams to obtain a critical mass of activity because of the need to maintain location-based clinical provision. Access to large groups of patients for trials or epidemiology could be arranged through collaboration without merger. No advantage to merger was seen.
Post Graduate Institutes Research in the principal UCL PGIs depends on their close integration with their associated NHS Trusts. Although benefits could result from increased collaboration with IC, this is not contingent on merger. Any disruption of the relationship between PGIs and their Trusts, or diminution of the multi-disciplinary research breadth, would threaten the continuing success of PGI translational research.
Bids for funding of large projects The argument that competition between UCL and IC for funding of large projects reduces the total sum of money received by the two institutions, was rejected. The total amount of funding flowing to UCL plus IC was thought likely to be larger if the institutions do not merge, since funding bodies will often fund two large projects at different institutions in London, but would only award one such project to a merged institution.
It is pertinent that from the list of benefits/downsides provided by the Merger Biomedicine Sub-Board (second meeting, 30 October) nearly all of these can be considered to have both positive and negative aspects to merger and thus should not be simply summed and then concluded that ‘benefits outweigh downsides’. Generally, there is little or no evidence to suggest that the proposed merger is necessary to bring the benefits suggested over and above that which could be accomplished by measured and close collaboration.
Non-medical course teaching This is mainly complementary at UCL and IC, so that there is little opportunity for a merger to generate economies of scale. Exceptions are the Biology and Biochemistry programmes, but joint UCL + IC programmes could not be delivered on one site without substantial investment in teaching infrastructure (especially at UCL; see below) and would be unlikely to generate the same number of students entering merged courses as currently enter UCL and IC separately. Consequently merger is not advantageous.
Quality of student experience at UCL and IC Student opinion holds that the students have a better experience at UCL, with more contact with staff, more feeling of belonging to an academic institution, better pastoral care, and many more course options than at IC. Merger might reduce these advantages and make the combined institution less attractive to students, leading to fewer applications and reduced fee income (see below).
Delivering teaching more efficiently To achieve any economies of scale in teaching would require enormous investment to relocate lecturers and build new teaching facilities - otherwise travel of lecturers and/or students between sites would be massively inefficient. It is unlikely that sufficient funding for this would be available (and might be dependent on a diversion of SRIF that would consequently not be available for other purposes). The effects of a rapid imposed convergence of course content in a merged institution would be extremely disruptive, and would decrease applications, with significant financial consequences. These negative consequences of merger greatly outweigh any minor advantages for the delivery of teaching. The consensus view was that UCL could and should improve the efficiency of its teaching (see below), but that this should be done over a period of several years and without merger.
The conclusion was reached that the financial advantages of merger are uncertain.
"Opportunities : Move to a campus-based approach for the location of stock and services. Science and Technology can be run from Kensington. Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences can be run from Gower Street. (But this may not be as straightforward as this if the location of academic activity is not this neatly rationalised). Medicine is problematic and will be dispersed . . . "
This appears to be saying that, unless all science is absent from Gower Street, some scientists will have their library miles away in South Kensington. No comment is needed on an idea quite as barmy as this one
The final paragraph states:
"The Group identified a considerable range and scale of difficulties,but very few real benefits; those that have been identified are strongly conditional on other circumstances."