— Calum Macdonald, UCU Edinburgh (personal capacity)
Chaos is ensuing at the University of Edinburgh as staff and students are furious over long delays to pay, disbursements and reimbursements.
The University of Edinburgh prides itself in being in the top 30 institutions worldwide, according to the Times Higher Education rankings. Despite the Uni’s reported £1.1 billion income in 2020/21, it has thrown staff and students into financial disarray during a cost-of-living-crisis, by delaying or withholding money that rightfully belongs to them.
The disastrous new centralised finance system was rolled out in June 2022, and management insisted that early warning signs were just temporary teething problems. Fast forward to October and the technical issues have become so bad that large numbers of PhD students have either not been paid their stipends or have been underpaid without explanation.
There is also reportedly an enormous backlog of staff expenses that are also still owed. A survey carried out by the UCU had over 500 members reporting they are still out-of-pocket! This suggests that the problem is widespread, with the amount of money owed for expenses and PhD stipends alone likely adding up to several hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Research is also being severely affected as outside companies have refused to deliver critical goods and are cancelling their services due to lack of payment from the University — seriously jeopardising final year PhD students and casualised post-docs.
So far there has been radio silence from the Principal Peter Mathieson over the issue, for whom it was recently revealed, the University paid £17,910 last year to maintain and run his £1.7 million private townhouse!
This has further infuriated staff while the UCU is preparing for imminent strike action over pensions and pay, having won a resounding nationally aggregated mandate.
At an emergency meeting of the UCU branch, over 2000 complaints were compiled against the University, with many telling stories of how they have been forced to quit PhDs by the uncertainty and confusion.
What is the root of this chaos? The cheapening of our higher education system and the drive to run the University as a profit-making business, cutting every corner possible with complete disregard for staff and students. This is more than simple incompetence or a technical problem, but reflects the priorities of the University management.
Staff and students can’t afford their extortionate rents, can’t pay their bills, can’t complete their research, have had a third of their pensions stolen, have suffered declining real-terms pay for over a decade, and are completely demoralised about the future of academia. But it’s all fine, the University is having a ‘mental health awareness’ week soon!
Principal Mathieson, if you really care about the mental wellness of those who bring in the money for your fat salary: the deadline has passed, no extensions will be granted, its time to pay up!