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11 April - Open Letter from the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Kopelman on Corporate Watch Article

The University is extremely concerned about the deliberate misrepresentation of its financial position in a recent piece by Corporate Watch. 

First it is important to stress that the University has ensured that all its contract workers are paid the London Living Wage since 2011.  We are reviewing contracts as they come up for renewal with the aim of bringing them in house where it fits with our strategy. The first workers come in house on 20 May.  Zero hours contracts are not used by us or by our contractors and all have confirmed that existing staff on such contracts have been offered new contracts and that new staff will not be offered such contracts. 
 
Like all higher education institutions, the University has been facing major financial challenges, however the contracts ensure not just proper payment of staff but good working conditions. Bringing staff in-house is expensive and moving too quickly would significantly reduce resources for key academic and other activities. We need to protect them.
 
The University does not have ‘spare cash’ swilling around.  Over £20M is already committed to refurbishment of two key academic buildings and the remainder are reserves to cover approximately three months operating costs if income fails. This is not ‘spare cash’ as the article implies.  
 
The University did not spend £20 million buying land in Stratford. It did enter into a transaction to develop a student hall in Stratford, to provide much needed extra affordable student housing.  The nature of the transaction means that the University can develop the hall without using its existing cash reserves.  Technical accounting required the University to record both an inflow and immediate outflow of cash in relation to this transaction in its Financial Statements. 

The clear strategy of the University includes investment in academic units.  These investments benefit students and academic staff across the University of London federation through enhanced services to students, and through new distance and flexible learning programmes that provide affordable access to education globally.  The historic and listed nature of many of our buildings requires continued investment.  The article fails to reflect this and the high costs of operating in central London.  This, in turn, results in increased academic activities and additional services to students. All investments are prudently considered in a context of affordability and student benefit.

The University sector faced serious financial pressures during the period of the current strategic plan and combined with current and future uncertainties (pension costs, the adverse effect of Brexit, the Augar fees review, and changes to tax overseas regimes).  
 
The article makes no reference to financial pressures or continuing uncertainties. It is almost as if Brexit and other challenges do not exist for Corporate Watch.