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The rise and fall of Glynis Breakwell: Punished for being too successful?

by / 0 Comments / 06/12/2017

When I got into the University of Bath, I was extremely excited, as I had just been accepted into one of the top universities in the country. I studied a degree in BSc Social Sciences alongside a sandwich placement year.  


 

Bath university is known for its good job prospects due to the links it has with many companies both nationally and internationally. It also happens to provide good leisure services, such as through its amazing sports centre and societies run by the SU. The city is also lovely, with pretty roads, parks and Italian restaurants. The university is charming too with its 1960s aesthetic feel, cute lake with ducks — where students sunbathe in the hot summer months — and all its greenery.

Currently, it is ranked the 5th best university in the UK in the Guardian University Guide 2018. It is also ranked 7th  for job prospects by the Whatuni Student Choice Awards and got a score of 88.15 per cent for overall student satisfaction in the 2017 National Student Survey.

But, the university has a dark side, which I found out about during my second year. A couple of months into my first term of second year, campaigns by lecturers started over academics being underpaid unlike their managerial counterparts.

They were angry! Both students and lecturers grouped together to protest smack-bang in the middle of campus. But back then, I wasn’t paying much attention, as I was too busy learning about the sociology of robots or getting my head around theories of political film. It wasn’t until my final year that I really understood what was going on regarding how much our Vice-Chancellor, Dame Glynis Breakwell was earning. Our student newspaper – Bath Impact — was rife with articles around the issue, but I still did not understand why students cared so much when we needed to work hard on our degrees.

In truth, I like this woman. And I am not just saying this because I am scared to be negative in case Breakwell happens to read this, or some other professional I may come across in the working world. I really do like her. After all, I feel she has worked hard to make the university what it is by making links with companies. I was also impressed when she got friendly with the royals too and got Prince Edward to become our main Chancellor. That is why I jumped at the chance to get a free ticket to his inauguration ceremony at the beautiful Bath Abbey where graduations also take place. It was just all so exciting to me.

But I do remember many not being impressed at all by anything she did. One of my lecturers in second year even said: ‘she isn’t much of a looker … God knows how she got a Prince to support us’. From then on, I knew I was probably part of a small majority of students that did kind of like her. However, I am not ignorant of the  issues and I do understand why both academics and the student body have a vendetta  against her.

A running joke within the student community on social media is that it was revealed she claimed expenses for a packet of biscuits costing just two quid! It is no wonder then that students are annoyed when her salary is more than the prime minister’s, yet she can’t seem to afford a packet of biscuits.

The point is, Uni of Bath students (like all students) work damn hard in their degrees, and they applied to the university because of the reputation it has for employability and also because they want to enjoy all the city has to offer. But they are angry because many of them are forking out a ton for fees and will be in a lot of student debt. They don’t understand why their VC is getting paid tons when so many of them  are struggling.

For a long time, the Uni of Bath’s Students’ Union and other organisations had been calling for her to resign because they don’t think it’s fair that she earns a salary of £451,000. Students and staff thought they had come close to giving her the sack when a vote of No Confidence was recently called by them, but the vote did not go their way with Breakwell winning the motion by just 19 votes to 16. The BBC wrote an article on the issue, where she was quoted saying:

‘I think the university as a whole must now come together to shape a transparent and justifiable way to set senior pay’.

She has since resigned due to the pressure but will stay in her post for up to a year until a new VC is found. 

The thing is, all institutions and organizations working for the betterment of others have their faults. Too much politics and too many people working in the same place will always cause a certain level of conflict. There will always be ‘the one’ that everyone else is under and that person may not be liked because they have the most power and because they may not always show compassion, even though they are actually passionate about the work they do.

I think Breakwell is passionate inside. Now that she has quit though, both students and staff need to work as a team to show the public what Bath University offers in the sciences (it’s a science uni), as well as in other areas. It would be a great shame if this prestigious university became known only for having the highest paid VC who likes her biscuits at meetings!

Now I am going to buy a packet of £2 biscuits and think about planning a trip away to Bath.

 Comment from graduate at the University of Bath:

‘In my opinion the fact that she just won a vote of no confidence is evidence that the public don’t believe she deserves all that money. The UoB should run an election or at least open the space to other candidates and then have an interview with them to get a VC that actually deserves their role! Also, the pay should be decreased too!’

Hey there, my name is Shivani Govindia and I have recently graduated from the University of Bath in BSc Social Sciences. I am interested in social/political topics and attending events to provide feedback for others on what I have learnt.