The University and College Union (UCU) last Wednesday named the University of Bolton as one of the least transparent in the UK. The university failed to provide details of its vice-chancellor’s pay and perks in response to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request from the union.
It was one of just eight out of 161 universities who did not respond, and is something of a serial offender having also refused to respond last year. UCU has reported the university to the Information Commissioner and asked that Bolton completes its statutory duty and replies to the union. Five universities used FoI exemptions to avoid answering any of the questions.
UCU said greater sanctions were needed to ensure universities justified some of the largesse that has embarrassed higher education in recent years. It has called for a national register of senior pay and perks in UK universities.
The University of Bolton’s vice-chancellor’s spending habits and financial arrangements have made national headlines and UCU said the university had a duty to be more transparent. The union said any university that claimed the answers to its questions were available online had either not read the questions properly or was being deliberately misleading.
UCU will be releasing its latest pay and perks survey later this month and said that universities should not escape the spotlight by refusing to answer legitimate questions about how they spend public money.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘Freedom of Information legislation is important in holding universities that spend millions of pounds of public money to account. It is extremely disappointing that the University of Bolton has once again refused to provide us with this information.
‘It is not acceptable for Bolton and a handful of other offenders to refuse to comply with the law by dodging Freedom of Information requests. We believe the time has come for a national register of pay and perks in our universities. The information we requested is not available online and any university that suggests it is either did not read the request properly or is being deliberately misleading.
‘We have written to the Information Commissioner’s Office and we would like to see greater sanctions on those universities that blatantly ignore these requests or try to wriggle out of their responsibilities with exemptions.’