Yesterday evening saw Leeds University Union's 'Give & Take w/Sir Alan Langlands' event in Riley Smith Theatre, hosted by Union Affairs Officer Lauren Huxley. An audience of around 65 were in attendance - two thirds of whom were course reps, as well as PGR, PGT and international student representatives - to see Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, Sir Alan Langlands, field questions on a variety of topics including Brexit, Gender and Race pay gaps at the University and concerns of PGR over-casualisation.
Some key takeaways from the evening include:
- A question about the concerns of PGR over casualization; the VC agreed to look at this and acknowledged concerns, saying:
“I am confident that the educational experience of PGR students is properly handled. We need to ensure we understand concerns that they may have in relation to their contractual position with the University, as many PGRs support student education. These are people who will become the academics of the future, or do great things in other parts of the economy. I don’t think we should be avoiding the responsibility that we have to them.”
- A common concern amongst students was the issue of refunds for missed teaching time. The Vice-Chancellor highlighted the difficulty of making sweeping statements at this time (when it is unclear how many lectures across each school are striking), but acknowledged that it is a concern for students, and in particular for international students paying higher fees.
- Broadly, in the room students were supporting their lecturers but were concerned over missed teaching. Sir Alan noted that his only other experience of strikes on this campus (in 2018) saw lots of teaching caught up on in some form, and moved to reassure students that it is unspoken practice that they won’t be assessed on anything covered in missed sessions. Sir Alan said:
“Impact on assessment becomes part of this deliberation: students won’t be assessed on material they haven’t covered. I think everyone wants the best outcome for students. The staff on strike will do their very best by students.”
- With regards to Brexit, Sir Alan was positive about the continuation of Erasmus, noting that if the UK exits with a deal that looks similar to the deal currently on the table, then Erasmus would be protected within that. In the case of a No Deal, the University and Sir Alan personally have been vocal campaigners in this area, and would hope to maintain the European traditions and global outlook of the institution.
- Sir Alan was also asked about Gender and Race pay gaps at the University. He clarified that it isn’t the case that people are paid less for the same roles, but that there is an imbalance in the distribution of the highest paying roles between white and BAME staff and men and women, something the University is looking to address, and is making progress towards.
Speaking after the event, Union Affairs Officer, Lauren Huxley, said: "It is always great to share a stage with the Vice-Chancellor and give students an opportunity to put their questions to him directly. It was a really interesting evening with a wide range of topics covered, from current industrial action to support for EU students. We are lucky at Leeds to be able to have open, genuine and honest discussions and the students in attendance definitely gave Sir Alan many things to think about.”
For more information about LUU's democracy and representation events, including other Give & Take debates, you can visit the What's On section of our website here.
If you have any questions or concerns about the UCU industrial action at Leeds, you can contact the Help and Support Team.