Yesterday the University of Manchester announced it was appointing ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer and editor of the Evening Standard George Osborne as Honorary Professor of Economics, commencing July 2017.
UMSU understands that the appointment was made following Osborne’s involvement in the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ endeavour and his support of the Graphene Institute whilst he was Chancellor.
However UMSU resents that the University seemed to overlook Osborne’s dire record as the administrator of 6 years of austerity in the UK – an economic plan deemed as unnecessary and ideologically-driven by various critics. Moreover, evidence suggests that not only did the ‘long-term economic plan’ fail, with the government borrowing more money than ever and doubling the deficit, austerity led to extraordinary cuts to vital public services and more people using food banks than ever before. For these reasons UMSU feels it was illogical to appoint Osborne into the prestigious role for ‘Economics’ at the University.
Manchester itself has felt the harsh effects of austerity, with the MEN reporting that homelessness has increased six-fold since 2010. Manchester Women’s Aid funding has been cut by 40% since 2010, and nationally violent crimes against women are on the rise as a direct result of loss of support. UMSU leads on a number of campaigns, such as Manchester Students Ending Homelessness and initiatives including a Sleep Out and supporting Manchester Rape Crisis. Much of the work that students at UMSU lead on are in direct response to effects of Osborne’s past policies.
UMSU feels therefore that the University’s decision is both distasteful and upsetting. UMSU further believes that Osborne’s austerity record contradicts the University’s ‘Social Responsibility’ policy. The policy can be found here [http://www.manchester.ac.uk/discover/social-responsibility/]. It lays out its desire to produce ‘socially responsible graduates’ who ‘tackle and understand problems relating to equality and diversity, sustainability, ethics and social justice’ and wishes to carry out processes that balance ‘efficiency with opportunities to create social and environmental benefit’. The University of Manchester would surely expect its Professors to lead by example on this policy, and UMSUconsiders Osborne unsuitable to fulfil this expectation.
UMSU finds it concerning that the University is honouring the ex-Chancellor who presided over the introduction of £9,000-a-year tuition fees in 2010.
UMSU is additionally baffled by the University’s decision to announce the appointment after declaring 160+ redundancies to its own staff. This aspect has provoked ridicule on social media, especially as Osborne already has five jobs in other areas.
The situation has brought into question the University of Manchester’s moral priorities. Students at the University, including the Post-Crash Economics Society, have made their position on the appointment clear and UMSU will support any students who have concerns or questions about this appointment.