Felicity Callard Profile picture
Apr 19, 2018 22 tweets 10 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
I've been thinking about trust. @AlistairJarvis's desire, on part of @UniversitiesUK is to 'rebuild trust' damaged during the dispute. He uses that phrase both in his letter to Sally Hunt () & in the leaked email to VCs ()
Yesterday, Prof Kris Olds, UW Madison (@GlobalHigherEd) argued that 'Universities UK could always advocate to become subject to the Freedom of Information Act to help build trust, its reputation, & its brand' – which got me thinking a lot more about trust
Onora O'Neill, in her work on trust, famously argues:

trust 'is well placed if directed to matters in which others are honest, competent & reliable, & poorly directed if directed at matters in which others are dishonest, incompetent and unreliable' efc.be/human-rights-c…
O'Neill, in placing attention on the importance of trustworthiness, centres attention on those 3 key attributes of:


How is UUK measuring up as an entity presumably wanting to be considered as trustworthy?
So, to UUK's competence. For many of us, UUK appeared without the competence to manage a significant industrial dispute. No one in senior leadership whom I have asked has been able to clarify how/when exactly it was determined that UUK wd represent the employers in such disputes.
So some outstanding questions:

1. What are origins of UUK (rather than UCEA or another body) representing the employers in disputes?
2. Is anyone willing to advance an argument that UUK does have the competence to manage a large industrial dispute – & on what grounds?
Thank you @matt1nnes for response to Qu. 1 (); from memory @matt1nnes thinks that because of regulatory/legal issues, responsibility to represent the employer in disputes went to UUK 'by default'. Any further details from anyone would be helpful
Re Qu 2 (UUK's competence to manage a large industrial dispute), I'm turning back to Onora O'Neill.

In Rethinking Informed Consent in Bioethics cambridge.org/us/academic/su… she argues competence was (& often still is) secured by requiring qualifications for professional practice
But professionals might be too close to other professionals to hold them to account. Hence O'Neill emphasises range of ways of combining 'informed' w 'independent' judgement, to monitor standards, investigate failure etc. (p.176-7).

Is anyone monitoring (& investigating?) UUK? screen shot of p. 176 of book by Onora O'Neillp. 177 of book by Onora O'Neill
O'Neill's other terms for assessing trustworthiness are honesty & reliability.

In terms of norms of honesty & accuracy (here, O'Neill is specifically addressing informed consent, but I think argument is transferable to the context of the dispute), O'Neill argues: Speech acts that confuse or baffle, that mislead or manipulate, that peddle false of dishonest claims are likely to leave others unable to judge what is claimed and what is offered, what is understood and what is agreed to, and are unlikely to secure informed consent.
One needs only to stroll around the Twittersphere to find many instances of people expressing grave concern vis-a-vis UUK's commitment – in its communications – to norms of honesty, accuracy, & reliability
You might consider @ProfKurtMills' complaint to the Charity Commission regarding the wording of UUK’s statements on the #USS contributions holiday
You might read #USSbriefs1. This shows how UUK's desire to make 'radical changes' to DB pensions goes at least as far back as 2014 – & gainsays the current urge to suggest UUK's hand has been forced by unexpected deteriorations in USS's finances medium.com/ussbriefs/the-…
You might consider @MikeOtsuka's 'disbelief' in relation to the 'shameless hypocrisy of @UniversitiesUK's stance on inflation'
If one cleaves to O'Neill's argument about trust & trustworthiness, UUK – & those making UUK up – needs to find & use indirect as well as direct ways of evidencing & practising trustworthiness. Without that, @AlistairJarvis's hope of 'rebuilding trust' will remain a fantasy
Several people have rightly critiqued me for overly reifying UUK. But how, really, can I do otherwise? I, like many others, know precious little about its operations, including how individual universities relate to (agree/disagree with) its various positions & pronouncements
So, in the hope of urging more of UUK's constituent members to impress upon "UUK central" the urgent need for more openness – so that we (those in universities) can assess UUK's accountability & governance arrangements – here are a few of my current unanswered questions:
1. How is the UUK board (universitiesuk.ac.uk/about/Pages/un…) put together? How in particular are the 6 elected members elected? Are there manifestos? How are the policy chairs selected? How does UUK monitor the robustness of its own governance procedures?
2. Does UUK make any board papers/minutes available? (I can't find anything on the website.) If not, why not? I note that the Equality Challenge Unit (which was co-owned by UUK) did make board minutes available ecu.ac.uk/media_category…
3. How does UUK think about / address / use / consolidate / undermine other networks across HE? How, for example, does the relationship between the Russell Group & UUK function (& how has this changed over time?)?
4. [What I'm most curious about] How many senior leaderships at individual institutions want UUK to be transformed in light of all that has happened in the last few weeks? And in what way? Does "UUK central" – representing the voice of universities – feel accountable to YOU?
5. Is there anyone from 'senior leadership' in UK HE who would be up for writing a @USSbriefs (see: medium.com/ussbriefs) on UUK?

This is a serious question.


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More from @felicitycallard

Oct 2, 2018
Given importance of HE sector "there may be a case for future governments to consider alternative options" (incl "state-backed guarantee" or "measures enabling more risk-taking"). Powerful piece from @JMariathasan on #USS DB debate post-#JEP ipe.com/analysis/blogs… #USSstrike 1/
Article argues that central problem lies in regulatory changes that transformed management of a DB pension scheme into "a risk management problem, not an investment one" 2/
Read 4 tweets
Sep 22, 2018
Thank you to @EricRoyalLybeck & all the other organisers in Exeter, as well as @ExeterUCU: Volunteer University Revisited was such a magical day. Gathering all of our energies for the months & years to come #YesVolUniCan 1/
Particularly magical to meet some people in the flesh for the first time -- incl. @thetroutpouts @lizmorrish @TheGraceK @sstroschein2 Mike Finn, Alison Wood, @ProfAlastair @ms_rhian @NoisyBits 2/
So many ideas for ways forward. So many kinds of expertise being bought to bear on what now, how, for universities as a community. Also so many testifying to violence, intimidation, threats to academic freedom – & of particular subjects being of course more exposed 3/3
Read 4 tweets
Sep 16, 2018
There's a bonanza of new FOI responses that give us a much better sense of the range of university responses to #UUK #USS consultations from Oct 2016 and Feb/March 2017. Picking through them it's fascinating to see which universities challenged the direction of travel 1/
e.g. Aberdeen: "Aon ... & UCU have indicated that it may be advantageous to consider other models. We are interested in the Trustees views as to whether there are alternative models that could result in a more considered outcome" whatdotheyknow.com/request/508696… cc @aberdeen_ucu 2/
e.g. LSE: "We note that the latest benefit changes were implemented less than 12 months ago. The School’s view is that it is too soon for further changes to be made." whatdotheyknow.com/request/509128… 3/
Read 6 tweets
Sep 16, 2018
So with the publication of the #JEP, the issue of UUK consultations with employer institutions is back big time. Both the famous Sept 2017 survey – and now the possibility, if JEP recommendations are taken up, of UUK reassessing employers' appetite for risk.

I'm worried. 1/
#JEP has emphasised the problems with how UUK framed the questions. What's really obvious if you look back Sept survey is that all the focus is on risk and on a *reduction to benefits*. And NOT on the potential to increase contributions. Or on amending the technical provisions 2/
You can see the structure of the questions here, in Nottingham's response (one of the institutions that wanted less risk): whatdotheyknow.com/request/440685… 3/
Read 18 tweets
Sep 15, 2018
2. #JEP has a lot to say about Test 1. Its sentence 'The view of the Panel is that Test 1 is not well understood outside of USS' is ... well ... certainly marvellously diplomatic.

Cf. and 6/
3. #JEP's discussion of #USS's & #UUK's 'differing perspectives' on the shift from Sept to Nov valuation shows just how murky the deliberations that resulted in this shift still are.

This remains a big issue, given #JEP proposal to reassess employers' atttude to risk (p. 45) 7/ Extract from p. 45 of JEP report
4. #JEP agrees w many of us that UUK's 'framing' of questions around risk in their consultations has serious consequences.

How can we be confident that any future assessment of employers' risk appetite by UUK shows an improvement in their use of social scientific methods? 🧐 8/
Read 13 tweets
Sep 15, 2018
After a few weeks away from Twitter, I'm back to think – alongside many others – about content & rhetoric of the #JEP.

And abt what we at @USSbriefs have been doing all summer w @OpenUPP2018 to encourage deliberations over #USS valuation to take place in public #USSstrike 1/
Many (incl. @NJSHardy @gailfdavies @DrJoGrady @etymologic @MikeOtsuka) have already provided cogent analyses of the #JEP report & its implications. So here I'll just going to pick out some of what has struck me most forcefully on a first read. #USSstrike 2/
1. There's a judicious use of rhetoric – particularly around 'confidence', '(mis)understanding' & 'communication'. This cleaves closely to that used by #UUK & Bill Galvin – whether that is deliberately so as to increase likelihood of acceptance by those parties, you can decide 3/
Read 5 tweets

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