Warwick group seeks to declare no confidence in Willetts

A group of Warwick academics has united with students to [circulate a petition](http://www.petitiononline.com/WUCHE/petition.html) within the University to declare that the academic body has no confidence in Universities Minister David Willetts.

The petition, which was organised after [a debate on ‘the public university’](https://theboar.org/news/2011/may/26/vice-chancellor-defends-privitisation-universities/), is listed under the heading ‘Warwick University Campaign for Higher Education’. Though it is being driven by a small group of academics, it is being signed by students and academics alike.

In addition to asserting no confidence in Willetts, the petition reads: “We call on the government to pause its publication of the White Paper to allow for proper consultation and public debate on its proposed reforms, which have the potential to inflict great and irreversible damage to Higher Education in the UK.”

David Reed, Campaigns Forum Co-Ordinator-elect and one of the students operating the online petition on behalf of the campaign, said: “What we’re doing with this petition is responding to the vote of no confidence arranged in Oxford.”

The petition is [part of a wider campaign, founded at Oxford,](http://www.noconfidence.org.uk/) with the aim of “a nationwide vote of no confidence in the policies of the Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts”. Oxford’s congregation has already passed a motion “to communicate to Government that the University of Oxford has no confidence in the policies of the Minister for Higher Education”, with [Cambridge close to passing a similar motion](http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/jun/01/david-willetts-cambridge-university-academics).

However, both Reed and Students’ Union Education Officer Sean Ruston emphasised that, due to the differing democratic structures at the Oxbridge institutions, such a campaign faces different and more difficult challenges at Warwick. Reed emphasised the key difference is that at Warwick there does not exist a democratic body that can force the University senate to do something it does not wish to by a majority vote. He also asserted that some of these structures at Warwick “have been dissolved or disregarded through lack of use”. The wording of the original petition has already been changed once; while it originally sought to “instruct” the Senate to take a vote of no confidence, it now simply states that “the undersigned students and staff of the University of Warwick” have no confidence in Willetts.

As the deadline for the petition is June 7, the campaign is keen to promote the petition, receiving help from the SU. According to Ruston, the Union has “no official policy on the campaign, but [has] agreed to help publicise the petition, and that’s what [it is] doing at the moment”.

The petition has already garnered around 750 signatures and Reed expressed his optimism that academics and students appeared to be showing a united front. The Warwick arm of the campaign is not limited to the petition, and the organisers are planning what Reed called “a series of talks on the future of education and how we can win the battle on the idea of the public university”.


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