DMU Renewed. A Manifesto

DMU Renewed: A Manifesto

NOTE: This is a starting point for deliberation about renewing governance at DMU. It is a starting point for dialogue with all staff and students. It builds on established proposals from the Gold Paper at Goldsmiths’ UCU and the Branch Solidarity Network’s Branch Activists’ Handbook. It starts from the collective belief that the University is ours.

Another University is possible

The DMU Renewed Manifesto recognises what people working within DMU think it stands for as a space of civic and public engagement, of excellent teaching and learning, of socially-useful scholarship and research. This Manifesto is a living document that celebrates DMU as a self-critical scholarly community; a true University with creative, critical and radical ambitions.

However, in order to realise these ambitions, we need collective mechanisms for ensuring these characteristics are part of the fabric of the institution in its governance and operational activities. This must be deliberated and owned by DMU staff and students in a self-critical and reflexive way. In this way DMU can be renewed as an institution.

We believe that if DMU actively starts from its staff’s collective position, then it can become a space for enriched, social innovation and creativity. This will bring more students to the University and enable our broader ambitions to be realized. Conversely, if DMU does not actively represent the things we believe in then we are far less likely to seek to extend our reach. This Paper begins from two ambitions:

  • to restate our purpose and reclaim a vision of the public university that is disappearing from view in the midst of the increasing marketisation of HE; and
  • to offer pragmatic steps towards its achievement beginning with what we do at DMU.

In this, we are guided by the principles of the International Co-operative Association that institutions should be governed based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. In the historic tradition of co-operatives, we predicate the achievement of our ambitions on ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

For this to work, we must re-configure the governance of DMU from the ground-up, as an endeavour involving everyone whatever their status. Moreover, it must be constantly questioned, in order to hold truth-to-power. This will work through the campus staff and student unions, and by renewing existing governance and organisational structures. In this we acknowledge the current context but refuse to be driven by it.

Our governing principles: DMU as a public university

1. Governance at the University will be based on active participation open to all its staff and students, based on democratic principles. This will be without any form of discrimination.

2. All staff representatives must be directly elected by staff. Those serving as elected representatives are accountable to the staff and student body first-and-foremost.

3. Decision-making must be predicated on the autonomy and independence of the University, and its staff and students. Where the University enters into agreements with other organisations, including raising capital from external sources, it must maintain the institution’s focus on democratic principles and autonomy.

4. The University will demonstrate Concern for Community, including working for the sustainable development of its communities through policies approved by their members.

5. All those elected must adhere to the Nolan Committee’s 7 principles of public life: selflessness; integrity; objectivity; accountability; openness; honesty; and leadership in demonstrating the other principles.


The University should be a self-critical scholarly community. All organisations will grow staid and stagnate if they are not refreshed through a constant process of reflexivity. This only works when there is full transparency and accountability and the opportunity for people to actively partake in the governance of the organisation. The focus at DMU has shifted to a culture of mistrust in our staff, alongside governance by the imposition of metrics and performance management. This has increased stress and anxiety, and devalues the professionalism, autonomy and academic freedom of staff.

Open and inclusive governance will actively seek to represent diversity in areas such as gender, sexuality, age, ethnicity and disability, and in terms of communities such as staff, students, local, national and international users of HE, business and the professions, and other educational partners. Democracy is central to this process.

  • The Board of Governors, Executive Board, Academic Board and all relevant sub-committees should seek to be as representative as possible of the diverse communities that DMU serves. This includes democratic representation of at least two members from each recognised trades union.
  • Increase democratic governance such that all staff can have an official voice through the creation of a General Assembly. Staff from this Assembly to be elected to all Governance committees of the University.
  • Democratise all Governance committees and sub-committees through the allocation of equal votes to staff and student representatives, community members, and employers’ representatives.
  • Elect chairs of DMU committees.
  • Full, transparent publication of all Committee and sub-committee minutes.


Through competition, financialisation and marketisation, the onus on universities to be responsible for their own income has introduced a constant tyranny of numbers. The focus in DMU has shifted to governance by the imposition of metrics and performance management that increases anxiety.

DMU needs to be financially sustainable and to make best use of its resources but it is not, primarily, a business and the education it delivers should not be treated as a commodity. Our students are not consumers; this view of them dehumanises both them and our staff. This paper acknowledges fully the financial requirements of the institution and understands that there is no quick fix to wider societal problems. However, in order to develop the wealth of the University, the emphasis must shift from a purely economistic calculation of value and a wholly individualistic conception of ‘consumer satisfaction’ to one that first and foremost values education. In a period of increasing financial instability, in particular with subject-based TEF and the Augar Review, we need to be able to ensure continuity of quality and maintenance of standards. We believe that a renewal of the social wealth of the University beyond economic reductionism will increase student numbers. We will not only remain firm to the values we hold dear but will seek to implement a series of policies that will actively work towards realizing the visionary policies and practices in this paper.

  • Finance of the institution needs to be brought into the democratic realm such that we can analyse its processes and contribute to its planning.
  • Openness and transparency about where and how decisions are made, where responsibility lies and clarity about how decisions may be questioned and challenged.
  • A reconnection between the governance/policy of the University and its economy through democratic engagement with staff and students, so that economic value does not drive the approach of the University to its public role or generation of wealth.
  • A commitment to ethical investment decisions.

Teaching and Learning

We object to the imposition of performance management based upon flawed metrics. This includes the changes to module level feedback to ask students to name-and-shame staff. This accelerates the worst elements of the TEF/league table agenda and the increasing marketisation of HE. As evidence demonstrates, such forms of performance management are deeply flawed and discriminatory, and generate a toxic culture for staff and students.

We also object to the idea that students are consumers or purchasers. This offers a reductionist and sterile view of the University, rooted in commodified inputs and outputs. We believe the University should be built from the ground-up on co-operative principles, with teaching and learning based upon the students and staff working collectively to produce the curriculum. This should also be widened out to include the local community, DMU Square Mile, City Council and social/community organisations, and employers.

It is absolutely right that we are concerned about our ability to teach well but this should always be addressed alongside learning and we should recognize that understanding teaching quality is not going to come about from the NSS (that is also extensively ‘gamed’ and poorly designed). Nor is it related to employment or retention (both of which are influenced by the labour market more generally and whole host of socio-economic factors outside our control). Limited metrics can be counter-productive in generating routinised and risk-averse forms of teaching. This runs counter to the very best of creative teaching DMU has to offer, and which has been consistently demonstrated in internal VCDTAs, TFs, TIP awards, and nationally in NTF awards, TEF etc..

We should draw on the expertise of our critical pedagogic experts, in order to work with staff, students and our communities, to devise meaningful forms of teaching development that are suited to the subjects we offer. We should rely on reason, argument and evidence; critical and creative thinking, rigorous analysis and meaningful implementation. This will extend our focus on UDL, Freedom to Achieve and Athena Swann, through which our staff demonstrate excellence and commitment to transformational change. Our professional services and academic staff must be central to this, and should be trusted to make pedagogic decisions about the design, delivery and assessment of the curriculum.

  • Peer Review of teaching on an ongoing basis, grounded in the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity.
  • A review and restructure of workloads, in order to prioritise time for feedback and discussion with students, and adequate allocation for assessment to support learning. Such a review should also be focused upon the well-being of staff and students.
  • A review of class sizes so that the Student/Staff ratio is below benchmark.
  • Ongoing diversification and decolonisation of the curriculum.
  • Actively seek to minimize casualisation (insecure, casual working conditions are not conducive to better student contact).
  • Retain equal opportunity to do research (in recognition of the link between teaching and research).
  • Teaching excellence should be rewarded via promotional routes, and open to all including those with caring responsibilities.


It is right that teaching is given equal standing to research. But this should not be at the detriment of research. There is interdependency between teaching and research that should be enriched through research-engaged teaching. Our approach to workload, RIAs and performance management, with constantly moving processes and timeframes only increases instability and uncertainty. We must be clear about supporting and giving resources/time to nurture and grow research-engaged teaching, as well as pure/applied research.

Our research should be predicated on socially-useful production – production that addresses grand challenges, and which offer more than commodified spin-offs, knowledge exchange and economic impact. This is fundamental to the idea of DMU as a site for the generation of wealth. University research must move beyond being at the behest of short-term commercially driven projects that force a turn away from fundamental/blue skies research or research of a more theoretical/critical bent. To reiterate, it must be socially-useful rather than simply viewed as economically valuable.

Fetishising the impact agenda also threatens to drive research to users’ alleged requirements rather than to those areas with little immediate applied purpose but of great intellectual or broad social value. It is not that impact-driven research in and of itself is undesirable but it should recognise social and cultural impact, be respectful of alternative voices or the needs of those who are made marginal or othered. Economic impact must not be valued more highly than other forms of research. Here we stress the importance of a commitment to academic freedom, which must be embedded in all our proposals for new research structures and agendas.

Crucially, we must enable the full-range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary research environments to flourish through appropriate support and funding/resources. This means that new Institutes and Centres must be given autonomy and a role in Faculty/University decision-making. The needs of ECRs, staff progressing scholarship, PTHPLs and PGR students must carry equal weight to those of Professors and established researchers. In this, all tenured staff including Professors should be encouraged to teach at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

  • Teaching must be always be linked to scholarship/research through research e-engaged teaching.
  • The RIA and performance management for research must be reviewed democratically, in association with Institutes and Centres, in order to protect time for research and/or scholarship. This must be made equally and equitably available to all academics.
  • All academics should have access to a research sabbatical scheme.
  • All academic staff should have access to research funds to facilitate attendance at conferences, etc..
  • Increased investment in research infrastructure to better support those applying for and working with external research grants.

The Importance of Professional Services

All of our teaching and research relies upon our peers working in Professional Services. Without them the University is nothing. These are often the people who know most about how DMU operates yet are frequently excluded from decision-making bodies. Elsewhere we have seen examples of people employed on outsourced employment contracts who are likely to be less well paid and suffer worse employment conditions. This demeans us all, and must be resisted at DMU. We must work to overcome a status-driven, ‘us and them’ split between academic and support staff that is replicated in our structures.

Student welfare and well-being is fundamental for a healthy learning environment. Support services for students in key areas such as mental health, childcare provision etc. should always receive equal prominence/access for all staff.

  • Full engagement of Professional Services’ staff on decision-making bodies through Unison.
  • A review of workloads for Professional Services’ staff.
  • A refusal to agree to the outsourcing of university services including catering, cleaning, international student recruitment, well-being and occupational health, and sickness absence reporting.
  • Where outsourcing does take place, a commitment only to consider companies who recognise trade unions and who pay a Living Wage.

What is to be done?

This manifesto is a working paper that is a call for renewal of governance and regulation, teaching and learning, research and public engagement at De Montfort University. It stresses the social wealth of the University, and the range of its activities, skills, knowledge and capacities to support individuals and communities in taking ownership of and transforming their lives.

We will be working closely with our students and our partners in Unison to discuss ways of enacting our principles. This will include understanding how our bond, and our need to maintain our credit rating with Moody’s, affects our ability to act autonomously. It will include a call for solidarity with other branch networks. It will include a call for proactive engagement and discussion with DMU management.

We are the University. We believe that another University is possible.

In solidarity.

UCU Branch Committee


5 thoughts on “DMU Renewed. A Manifesto

  1. Pingback: Statement from DMU UCU committee on resignation of vice-chancellor – UCU DMU

  2. K Fearon

    PhD student T and Cs need to be reviewed. How many complete in 3 years, and what happens when the bursary runs out? Giving another 6 months would reflect the time it actually takes most people but there may be other options. The extra year of fees is very welcome.

    More pressing than that is the need to make proper maternity leave arrangements for PhD students who only get SMP while they are away and who can’t get any funding for nursery fees – unlike undergrads and PGCE students. This disproportionately discriminates against women and needs to be sorted out.


  3. Pingback: De Montfort Renewed: A Manifesto | Branch Solidarity Network

  4. Pingback: UCU statement to the Board of Governors – UCU DMU

  5. Pingback: Why do UK universities have such large gender pay gaps? | Stephen R. Bates

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