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Students Picket Founders’ Day Ceremonies as Senior Leaders Stay Home

Several dozen protestors demonstrated on King's College Quad last Saturday


By Josh Pizzuto-Pomaco


Three male protestors hold a large white sheet which states 'Elphinstone is turning in his grave'
Protestors gathered ahead of the annual Founders' Day Service in King's College Chapel

As management continues to consult staff on significant cuts in modern languages, dozens of students and staff demonstrated outside the University’s Founders’ Day Service last Saturday. 


The annual service attracts a large number of alumni, senior staff members, and philanthropic donors.


Chanting ‘no ifs, no buts, no languages cuts’, protestors broke a long hallowed tradition - standing on the grass in King’s College Quad. 


As staff members and friends of the University walked into the chapel, the crowd shouted slogans and held colourful signs aloft. 


Several of the passersby expressed support, while others appeared slightly confused. One asked a University staffer what the fuss was about, and was told demonstrators wanted to stop “cuts to some courses.”


Speaking to The Gaudie, AUSA VP for Education Rhiannon Ledwell said:


“The University loves to talk about their history, but at the same time, they’re cutting our education, our languages, our culture. What are we even celebrating today?


Rhiannon Ledwell in front of protestors on King's College Quad, holding a sign with Gaelic words on it
AUSA VP for Education Rhiannon Ledwell helped to organise the protest

“We’re here because the management is here, as well as donors, alumni, and other important people. This is how we send our message.”


However, it appears most management figures weren't in attendance.


According to footage filmed by The Gaudie, just one member of the University’s ten-person leadership team, VP for Regional Engagement Peter Edwards, took part in the academic procession into the chapel. 


It is unclear why other members were not in attendance, however The Gaudie understands that several senior managers were on vacation.

These holiday makers include Principal George Boyne, who swapped the grey skies of Aberdeen for a week-long respite in Gran Canaria. 

The absences have bolstered claims by academic union UCU that University management isn’t doing enough to elicit philanthropic donations. 


Eight protestors hold flags and signs
After the protests, students posed for photos in front of a monument dedicated to Bishop Elphinstone

Management has robustly defended their engagement with donors.


In an email to staff, sent on Monday, Principal Boyne noted that more than seven million pounds had been given to the University during the past year. 


He wrote: “We must continue to generate extra income from all sources beyond tuition fees from students coming to Aberdeen to study. This includes research (which now amounts to more than £55m each year) transnational education through our overseas partnerships (nearly £5m this year), online education which earns more than £7m a year, and philanthropy which in 2023 alone contributed over £7m to support the work of the University. 


“We are committed to continuing our strategy of growing and diversifying our revenue across all these areas.”

Pressure on management has continued to grow, with UCU announcing its intention to strike during the spring term over the cuts in modern languages, which could see more than 30 lecturers made redundant. 


A £15 million pound black hole, created by a plunging international student market, has led management to seek significant savings across the University. 


In the same letter to staff, Principal Boyne stressed his desire to avoid redundancies by reduce staffing costs through other measures, writing: 


“The financial support for the enhanced retirement scheme and voluntary severance, the continuing staff recruitment freeze, the operational savings, and the rigorous strategic drive to generate extra income across the full range of sources all show that we are doing absolutely everything possible to prevent compulsory redundancies.”


The much-discussed ‘financial recovery plan’ put to paper by senior leaders will be discussed behind closed doors at a meeting of the University Court on the 28th of February. 


More to come.

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