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Student association slams the running of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI)

By Scott Maclennan

Inverness College UHI.
Inverness College UHI.

The Highlands and Islands Students’ Association (HISA) has suggested duplication of roles is putting the future of UHI at risk.

The running of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) has been heavily criticised at the three-day HISA annual conference taking place at the Mercure Hotel in Inverness.

The association's vice president of higher education, Andrew Bowie, called for an end to the duplication of processes across the 14 institutions including Inverness College that make up the university.

He also singled out what he called “ineffective communications” which he said “threatens the future of our entire partnership”.

Mr Bowie said: “At a time of financial crisis for all of the colleges and universities of Scotland, it is clear that UHI cannot continue to duplicate processes, press on with ineffective communications, and ridiculous bureaucracy.

“UHI’s outstanding academic and support staff are under threat of job loss, and the university must act now to protect their positions, and give them much-needed job security.

“We believe that inaction at this stage threatens the future of our entire partnership, and continuing with the status quo can only lead to further cuts, job losses, and an infinitely worse student experience.

“We are delighted that students attending HISA Conference voted overwhelmingly in favour of HISA adopting a position that UHI must now move to integrate the back room and administrative processes that are needlessly copied up to 14 times across the partnership.

“We cannot continue in an environment where we have fourteen principals, HR managers, financial directors and countless other processes that see a vast duplication of efforts.”

He said the student body was entirely behind those who worked at UHI but worried about how long things as they stand could be sustained.

“HISA, and the students we represent, are generally very happy with their student experience at UHI, and they continually praise the efforts of UHI’s academic and support staff,” he said.

“However, the scale of the financial worries that we now face, and the threat that they pose to the experience of our students, demands that UHI takes urgent and bold steps to reduce duplication, create much needed financial efficiencies, and safeguard the student experience that they very clearly cherish.”

A spokeswoman for UHI said: "We welcome these comments from HISA and we support their imperative to take 'urgent and bold steps.

"Our university partnership has made great progress to improve the way we work, both individually and collegiately.

"We see the challenges ahead and are working hard as a university partnership to address these in a way that enhances the experience of all our students, no matter where or what they are studying.

"Our partnership assembly was established to consider how we continue to develop as a university partnership in the coming years.

"This process has brought together around 100 delegates representing staff, students, governance groups and executive teams from across the university partnership, as well as trade unions.

"The assembly has identified a number of recommendations for change which we are already actively progressing.

"As a tertiary education provider, we are optimistic that our partnership can build on some of the fantastic opportunities ahead, whilst being realistic about the obstacles in our way."

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