An open letter to the Board of Governors at the University of Plymouth

Subject: An open letter to the Board of Governors at the University of Plymouth
From: An Academic
Date: 6 Feb 2019
University of Plymouth logo

Like many of my colleagues I had hoped that the University would improve with the appointment of a new Vice Chancellor and a new Board of Governors following the previous breakdown of governance. How wrong we were.

What was once a good, regionally focussed teaching University has been systematically reduced to a shell, every year we are forced to make deeper and deeper cuts in order to meet the ambition of becoming a 2nd rate Russell Group imitator. Our student numbers have fallen dramatically due to your lack of strategy, misplaced belief we can become the Devon equivalent of the University of Southampton and a blatant disregard of the needs of our students.

Whilst many universities have invested in their campus and student support, seen growth and have financial security, Plymouth has been left to wither away. The links and partnerships with the region and city have been deliberately eroded, prospective students have seen this and you have made Plymouth a university to be avoided.

Student recruitment has been falling for a number of years. Acceptances for 2019/20 are currently down by 18%, following a year on year fall in recruitment. As a member of the Board of Governors you will have been aware of this for some time and know that Plymouth will have about 13,000 students by 2021 as recruitment continues to decline.

Do you understand that the economic impact on the city will be huge, both with the loss of student income and several hundred redundant staff?

You must understand this as you have approved the current plans for a 25% cut in University budget, resulting in many courses being cut, support services destroyed, hundreds of staff being made redundant and a complete undermining of the student experience.

With your support, the Vice Chancellor and University Executive Group have caused the current, dire financial situation by raising entry tariffs, reducing the pool of students who can apply and deliberately only promoting Plymouth as Research institution; it is as if you have decided that the University doesn’t want to attract undergraduates as we only promote narrow fields of research and Medicine.

The University has suffered immense reputational damage caused by your recent decisions and a lack of control by your Board. You only have to look at the debacle over the costly change of the University’s name to see how the relationship with current and prospective students has been fractured.

The drive to turn the University of Plymouth into a pseudo Russell group university has meant that undergraduate provision is secondary to your personal ambitions. If you look at the data for other post 1992 universities, you’ll see that comparable institutions have grown, Plymouth has been made to fail. The future plans for down-sizing the University will do nothing for the city and the region.

The catalogue of disasters is growing. There is a huge financial loss in taking over the old MDEC building, the £millions put into the over budget Derriford Research Centre, a fortune being spent on developing the Campus Strategy, the £10,000 spent on away days. We hope you all enjoyed your spa treatments, paid for by student fees.

You should all feel embarrassed and ashamed by your behaviour. The warning signs were obvious a few years ago when recruitment started to tail off, the dip in demographics was not unexpected but should have been planned for. What was needed then was decisive action and strategy, not an annual cycle of seemingly random cuts, knee jerk reactions, investment in vanity projects and unachievable ambitions for Plymouth to be a global leader. Your appalling grasp of the sector, lack of foresight and an unwillingness to challenge the University Executive Group has been a major contributing factor to the current situation.

The University of Plymouth could very easily fail. It is not an attractive proposition for prospective students, the ambition to treble the amount of research funding has collapsed, those staff who are still in post are demoralised with uncertain futures and our current students are about to see a significant downward shift in their learning experience.

No doubt you enjoy having University Governor on your CV, it is a shame you have had to help destroy the University of Plymouth to have that title.


We've had over 1,200 views of this letter. Keep sharing it. Go to the VCs briefings. Ask questions. Ask the University what the plan is. Ask the University how many staff they plan to lose.