Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Letters

Article excerpt

UCL is not distrusting, just doing its duty

We do not accept the claim in the article "UCL expenses rules mean staff seen as 'inherently untrustworthy'" (News, 12 May) that the expenses policy at University College London indicates that staff are viewed as "inherently untrustworthy". The policy simply reflects the reality that we are a publicly accountable organisation, with a duty to ensure that expenses expenditure is appropriate and modest. We would (rightly) expect to be held to account, by, among others, Times Higher Education, if this were not the case. Nor is there any evidence to substantiate the claim that we are "enforcing a tougher expense regime" to fund our expansion in East London.

To provide the context, we began a review of our expenses policy after an internal audit found that we could improve levels of compliance across UCL. The review found that our policy was largely aligned with those in place at comparable institutions, as well as in bodies ranging from the Higher Education Funding Council for England to the NHS - no surprise, given that we operate within the same tax laws and HMRC guidelines.

We decided at that point to recirculate to staff the policy, in effect unchanged, and to seek greater compliance with it. I accept that this process could have been better handled - the policy had historically included some anachronistic and trivial rules, which the recirculation of the policy drew attention to, including those on refreshments for meetings that figured prominently in your story.

I believe that the revised policy - signed off last week - addresses these concerns.

With regard to discretionary funds, our existing guidance on their use has not changed, but the expenses policy applies to all money spent by staff, including money held in such accounts. Again, this is standard practice for any organisation entrusted with public or charitable funds and ensures that we meet HMRC requirements, as all universities and public sector organisations are required to do.

Rex Knight

Vice-provost, operations

University College London

Reporting back

I feel qualified to comment on Matthew Wyard's opinion article "A matter of consent" (12 May) and the current controversy about the Zellick Report on universities' handling of sexual assault allegations, both as a member of the group that produced the report and as a frequent commentator on legal issues in higher education.

In 1994, we were right to clarify both the responsibilities of universities and the rights of individual students accused of serious misconduct that could also constitute a criminal offence. We should remember that the need for guidance arose from a case at King's College London that attracted considerable criticism, not least from the National Union of Students and the media.

Our group dealt only with questions of student discipline. We were not charged with examining ways in which support could be given to alleged victims; neither the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals (forerunner of Universities UK) nor the NUS asked us to do so. As Graham Zellick has commented in the past, there is no need to rewrite or update the guidance because the legal basis for its recommendations remains in essence unchanged. Here Wyard is wrong.

However, he and others are right to say that universities must ensure that their policies and practices deal effectively with the issues giving rise to disciplinary or criminal proceedings, and this requires an effective reporting system. …

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