– FOI request reveals President Stuart Ritchie at odds with official GUSRC statement
The response to an FOI request from qmunicate has shown that contrary to the GUSRC statement released regarding Rest of UK student fees, President Stuart Ritchie’s place in the RUK fees consultative process was not used to argue for a lower figure than that announced.
In a series of emails between Mr Ritchie and the University of Glasgow’s Director of Corporate Communications, Susan Stewart, it appears that Ritchie in fact argued for higher RUK fees than those announced. In one such email Ms. Stewart remarks that she is disappointed at how negatively the GUSRC statement reflected on the University’s decision, considering ‘you [Ritchie] were one of the people on working group arguing for the 9k position’.
‘It appears that Ritchie either used his position to argue for charging all RUK students £9000 per year for three years, with a fourth free (the ‘3×9’ referenced below), or charging the maximum £9000 every year for four years- the ‘9k position’. Ritchie’s exact position is unclear from the correspondence, but it is certainly far removed from the official line he gave to both student and mainstream media, which emphasised that ‘GUSRC are an anti-fees organisation, and we therefore condemn the fee increase at a base level’.
However, it is perhaps worthwhile mentioning that Ritchie describes himself as in opposition to the other Sabbatical Officers in this area. ‘There are lots of people on campus who will expect us to be outraged that we are charging anything like 26k. That includes the rest of the exec.’
As well as the incongruity between the President’s words and his actions, the emails also alluded to a back-scratching culture growing between Ritchie and members of the Senior Management Group.
The President admitted that he could not be seen to be ‘chummy’ with University management or he would be ‘toast’, adding, ‘To be frank even if the group had been persuaded to go to 3×9 I would have released a statement saying I was disappointed with the decision.’
Ms. Stewart, had acknowledged previously in the exchange that, ‘you [Ritchie] need to play to/placate your various constituencies’, but charged the GUSRC release with ‘being out of step with the dominant narrative, (which, given your [Ritchie’s] own support for 9k is, to say the least, ironic!!)’. Ms. Stewart goes to suggest that GUSRC would be held responsible if popular response to the announcement was less positive than the Senior Management Group wished, stating that ‘Glasgow could come out smelling of roses tomorrow, but SRC release makes that less likely.’
Elsewhere in the correspondence Ritchie referred to the debacle surrounding the University’s decision to demolish the current GUU extension and extend the facilities housed in the Stevenson building, as ‘the botched PR job you guys did on the hive’.
qmunicate contacted Mr. Ritchie who had this to say: ‘The working group met three times and from the outset it was clear Glasgow intended to hold off making a decision until it was clearer what our competitors would do. At the second meeting really two options were considered 3×9 + 1 free, or 4×6750 then a rebate of 1k, I confess I was unconvinced why you would charge students the same amount yet appear less than our competitors in the Russell group. (17, bar Edinburgh and LSE, charged 9K per year) because in a cost table we would appear miles down the list.
In terms of target market, the south east of England there is definitely a strong arguments for suggesting that people associate value with cost. Fees are a form of consumerism (wrong, in my opinion) and our SMG was effectively trying anything to disassociate itself with the other research leading and world 100 universities.’ Ritchie went on to say ‘I also truly believe we got a much better series of bursaries and packages because I worked with the university. GUSRC is privileged to be part of the decision making process on a massive range of issues. There has to be a balance between constructive criticism and being entirely ideological. I stated right at the start of this process I opposed fees- however you cant spend three meetings repeating that. Students would have got less consession and the university would have isolated us from the discussion
Our working relationship is I believe part of what makes us a sector leader for student welfare organisations’
You can read the full email exchange relating to RUK fees here.