• Wed. Feb 28th, 2024

BREAKING: EUSA passes motion calling for Peter Mathieson’s resignation

The glass dome ceiling of Potterrow during the day.

This article has been edited to reflect a statement to The Student from a University of Edinburgh spokesperson.

The Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) have voted to pass a motion on “University management accountability and vote of no confidence,” after it was debated at the monthly council meeting on 30 November. 

The motion was submitted by HCA Undergraduate Representative Sam Marks and calls for the resignation of Peter Mathieson as the University’s Principal and Vice Chancellor by no later than July 2024. 

The motion further states that there should be greater accountability related to the earnings of senior management and the introduction of an annual referendum “to amend the values and qualities promoted by the Students’ Association.” 

READ MORE: Full draft text of Student Council motion calling for Peter Mathieson’s resignation 

The results of the vote were released on Monday 4 December with 95% voting for the motion. 

The vote, which was open to the University student body, saw 648 people vote “For,” 35 vote “Against,” and 29 abstain. None of the five EUSA sabbatical officers voted in favour the motion. 

Commenting on the motion’s success, Marks told The Student:

“This motion will set a precedent for progressive and transformative beneficial change.

“Even though this vote passed the council by one vote, the clear distinct [sic] between the margins on council and that of students who came out to vote show that EUSA still does not adequately represent the student body.

“This was a testimony of student voice and a demonstration of our success when unified.”

EUSA has been contacted for comment.

Students and EUSA representatives were given the chance to argue for and against the motion at the recent EUSA Council meeting.

Marks defended the motion by citing historically low student satisfaction, further stating that: 

“The lack of accountability [of university management] has caused an unsustainable university situation where Principal Peter Mathieson – the highest paid figure in Scottish Higher education – is making exorbitantly high salaries and even higher rates of pay raises during an industrial action crisis.”

READ MORE: Mathieson grilled at student Q&A as satisfaction at an all time low

Members of the EUSA council argued against the motion. 

Former EUSA President, Niamh Roberts, prefaced their statement arguing that they do not endorse the Vice Chancellor, but that the “motion would simply break down what can be a very constructive relationship [with University management] and simply disempower student reps.” 

Responding to this, a student pointed out the inconsistency in preserving the “constructive relationship” between students and senior management, saying: 

“What is our working relationship with Peter Mathieson? So far all I have seen is him ignoring every protestor, every strike action, and every union offer that he has been presented with.” 

Roberts highlighted the futility of student action, citing fruitless calls for senior management pay cuts alongside UCU industrial action. ​​

The past five years have seen UCU members, including those at the University of Edinburgh, in dispute with the University and College Employers Association that regulate pay for University staff nationally.

READ MORE: UCU ballot falls short of threshold required to renew strike mandate

Roberts reiterated their point that calling for Mathieson’s resignation was imprudent, stating:

“I wish that protest and a vote-of-no-confidence would carry weight with the senior leadership team, but it will in fact not.”

Roberts advocated for other avenues, highlighting EUSA’s action in creating consultation spaces, hosting student voice focus groups, and hosting an accountability forum twice this year.

VP of Welfare, Lauren Byrne, pointed out that Mathieson had just begun a second five-year term and was unlikely to resign regardless of a call to resign from EUSA. 

“We would be sidelining some other projects including things focused on the housing crisis, the cost of living crisis, and how the university handles gender based violence.”

Other students defended Marks’ proposal, with one student advocating for Mathieson’s resignation. They named Adult Human Female screenings and over-policing as grounds for passing the motion.

READ MORE: EUSA launch open letter condemning heavy-handed policing on campus

Sam Marks urged students to vote in favour of the motion due to EUSA’s penchant to “keep the status quo.” 

He stated:

“The University student body already lacks significant faith in EUSA as a means to display the will of the student body and to carry it out. This is something that can change that trajectory. 

“This is something that can give students confidence that they have a voice and to have a university government where they can actually enact change.”

In a statement to The Student, a University of Edinburgh spokesperson said:

“We note the outcome of the EUSA vote. We know that the experience of many of our students has been shaped by a period of unprecedented challenges, including a global pandemic, cost of living rises and industrial action.”

“The student voice is valued by the University’s Senior Leadership Team.”

“We know there is more work to be done and we continue to listen to feedback to identify areas where we can deliver positive changes that benefit our community.”

“We recognise the stress that industrial action placed on our students and staff in last year and that work needs to be done to resolve this national dispute. “We are committed to a fair offering for staff and offer many generous staff benefits, including excellent flexible working and family friendly policies.”

More to follow…

Potterrow Dome” by Graeme Pow is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.