Skip to content or view screen version

The Invisible Man

Reform Exeter College | 17.02.2015 21:15 | Education | London | Oxford

Exeter College Oxford is engaged in a campaign to whitewash the established record of its new Rector in cutting teaching posts in his last job.

The Invisible Man

Exeter College Oxford is governed by a Rector. The College statutes state clearly that the Rector must be ‘distinguishhed for literary, scientific or academical attainments, or for services rendered to education in the University or elsewhere.’ On election the Rector promises faithfully and truly to observe,and to cause to be observed, by all those within the said College…all the Statutes.’ The Statutes begin by affirnming that the College exists ‘for the increase of education.’ Such is the supposed position of the College, and the basis on which it raises funds as a registered charity, no 1141333.

In 2014 the Governing Body of the College elected as Rector Sir Richard Trainor KBE, FRHS, FKC FAcSS, who from 2004 until 2014 had been Principal of King’s College London. In 2010 Trainor decided to restructure the College. He attempted to ‘disinvest’ in American Studies, Byzantine and Modern Greek, Computationaal Linguistics, Palaeography, Engineering, and in the Institute of Psychology. . He proposed cutting 205 jobs. In 2014 King’s announced that a further 120 scientists would loose their jobs.

Trainor’s Wikipedia entry reads , in part:
Trainor did not seem daunted by the reputational damage of the 2010 restructuring, and he proposed another large-scale restructuring in May 2014, potentially affecting up to 15% of staff in biomedical sciences and at the Institute of Psychiatry.[34] This time senior academics at King's as well as students were highly critical of the plans[35] and once again King's suffered adverse publicity in the media.[36][37] Trainor and his management team were further accused of failing to follow advice from a credit agency, whose report they had commissioned.[38][39] The University and College Union were again highly critical of the restructuring, and provided a regularly-updated list of media coverage[40]

Trainor asserted that the cuts were necessary, yet the Standard and Poors Report on KCL for 2013which he commissioned made it clear that they were not necessary. stating ‘King’s net debt is relatively low compared to peers.’ ‘We expect the net debt position to turn to positive by 2014.’
In the words of Professor David Colquhuon. FRS the assertion that staff cuts were an immediate necessity ‘is absolute nonsense’
In 2010 Professor Hilary Putnam of Harvard wrote to Trainor, saying” According to the information that I have received, Professor Simon Lappin was informed of compulsory redundancy on the basis of KCL ‘divesting itself of computational linguistics’. I have been told that as recently as July 2009 you yourself assured him that neither he nor the Department at large was being targeted for redundancies. I also understand that there is no department of computational linguistics to be shut down, and that Prof Lappin and Dr Meyer-Viol are full and integral members of the Philosophy Department. We also understand that contrary to contractual agreements about post-retirement age employment, you have sought to force Prof. Charles Travis into retirement without conducting the performance review contractually specified, or giving any grounds for forcing the retirement. I understand that these specific cases are part of a larger pattern of reorganization of Humanities at King’s, where you seek to make 22 academics redundant, and have put all academic staff on notice of potential redundancy.” The letter was not answered.
The lack of transparency in Trainor’;s proposals and his refusal to meet with UCU representatives, also attracted notice.
It is not unreasonable to suppose that the College, which prides itself on its support for humane learning, might wish to explain how Sir Richard Trainor’s record makes him an appropriate candidate for Rector. But my efforts to get some explanation from the SCR, the MCR and the JCR of Exeter College have been met with a resolute silence, save from Dr Peter Johnson, Official Fellow in Management Studies, who urged me to ‘grow up and get lost.’ It would appear that all other members of Exeter College, and the members of the Campaing for the Defence of British Universities, are unable to see the figure identified by Wikipedia. Or, if they can see his record, they believe that it is in full harmony with the ‘services rendered to education’ which the College is required to recognize.
But I submit that Exeter College cannot have it all ways. Do they assert that Trainor did not try to cut teaching posts, without consultation, and in the face of international protest? Do they assert that Trainor, in backing away from some of these proposed cuts and denying that others had been proposed showed the leadership required of a Rector? Or do they believe that, as longer as they see no problem, there is no problem to see? Those of us who, when we gave money to Exeter College, assumed that it could never reward brutalism, would be glad to learn how we may have our donations refunded.

Reform Exeter College