Vote of No Confidence in the University Leadership

45 staff are now ‘at risk’ of compulsory redundancy. The calls from all three campus unions for no compulsory redundancies have been ignored: [see open letters: 11.03.24 / 14.03.24 / 11.04.24 / 19.04.24 / UCU comments re 19.04.24]

The process has been clouded in secrecy and compulsory redundancies declared with no realistic opportunities for consultation, pressurising affected staff into making rushed decisions. There is a real threat of a third phase of compulsory redundancies being declared in September 2024. 

As a result, campus trade unions (UCU, UNISON and Unite) have received overwhelming calls to facilitate a Vote of No Confidence.

University of Surrey finances – a flawed ‘sector norm’ argument

University of Surrey has repeatedly justified its actions using the ‘sector norm’ argument, repeating the same line to the press: BBC / BBC / Surrey Live / Times Higher. UCU expertise, via a sector analyst, challenges this premise as the sole cause as further finance metrics place the University of Surrey well outside of the sector average. There are of course sector pressures affecting our University, but the analysis shows that the predicament at UoS is very far from ‘normal’, that the University is a financial outlier, and that there has been long-term irresponsible financial planning despite the sector trajectory and pressures being well known.

The amount of borrowing against income has been one of the highest in the country, the latest reported HESA figures show University of Surrey second only to Oxford Brookes The evidence suggests that in addition to reckless spending, the Executive Board have also borrowed recklessly to the point where the ‘deficit’ appears to have been planned rather than arising from circumstances outside of anyone’s control. The debt repayments are not imminent (and so would not be causing immediate pressure to reduce staff numbers), but the debt levels mean that further loans are unlikely to be secured. Rather than scale back ambitions for further capital expenditure the current leadership seem prepared to fund these through job cuts, generating a high student to staff ratio and high workloads for remaining staff.

Although the University has not been open with us about its finances, the VC has made it clear in his recent all-staff message and open letter response, that future spending is intended for buildings and refurbishment, not staff.

University communications blackout – management have deliberately kept people uninformed 

After the previous Votes of no Confidence in the Vice-Chancellor and Executive Board in 2019, Council sent an email to all-staff stating ‘’What is very clear from these votes – and the feedback in the town hall meetings – is that collectively we need to get much better at communicating, particularly in difficult times’’. So it is with great concern that at this time of unease and precarity, there has been sparse all-staff communication from the University leadership on the details of the Financial Resilience Plan since the initial announcement in March 2024. 

Summary of concerns

 Overall, the concerns expressed by members that have led to such financial instability include:

  • The volume of borrowing against income, which surpasses nearly every institution in the sector, with the exception of only two with comparable or more borrowing.
  • The millions of pounds spent on projects that are not necessary to finance, which has substantially lowered the University’s cash reserves leading to weak financial sustainability.
  • The ongoing concern that staff are regarded as a cost and not as an asset 
  • The threatening of course closures without due process 
  • The serious implications for staff well-being, including stress and workload concerns as a result of staff reductions. 
  • Recruitment continuing, despite a recruitment freeze, and alongside large scale redundancy processes.


In light of the above issues regarding the conduct of the University in relation to the Financial Resilience Plan, we would like to invite the University of Surrey community to participate in a Vote of No Confidence. Membership of a campus trade union is not a requirement. The vote relates to the Vice Chancellor, the Provost, and the Executive Board, based on the substantial concerns expressed by staff about their handling of the current situation.

This vote closes: 12 noon 17th May 2024