Oppose Sacking of Prof James Newell / Support SOAS Students

Two motions passed by GUCU executive against the sacking of Prof James Newell and in support of students facing disciplinaries at SOAS after taking part in a protest in support of pension strikes.


On June 12th 2018, Professor James Newell was dismissed from his position as Professor of Politics at Salford University after 27 years of service. The reason given by the institution is that Professor Newell had failed to meet arbitrary targets linked to the successful capture of external funding, targets that were introduced retroactively following his appointment to Professor in 2005 and thus not part of the original contract. This has enormous ramifications for academics working at universities in the United Kingdom. Gearing the academic enterprise towards economic logics rather than the production of knowledge for its own sakeshould be a cautionary tale for all researchers, academics and lecturers employed at the coalface of Higher Education.  

Professor Newell is, without doubt, a highly respected academic veteran, an internationally renowned scholar and the most eminent UK researcher in the field of Italian politics. Over the past twenty-seven years, Professor Newell has published 5 monographs (with two on the way), 11 edited anthologies, 44 peer-reviewed journal articles and 48 book chapters. He has written for The Guardian,The Conversation, and has appeared on the BBC to share his expertise in Italian politics. Professor Newell’s dismissal on purely economic grounds should serve as a cautionary tale to those who value the UK’s treasured institutions of learning and research. We are in the process of being beseeched by market forces, which are rapidly and radically changing the very principles of Higher Education and Learning that many hold dear. 

We, the undersigned, ask that Vice Chancellor, Helen Marshall, reinstate Professor Newell with immediate effect in light of what can only be described as a serious attack on the principles of higher education, with Professor Newell the latest victim of the damaging shift towards the continued marketization and corporatisation of higher education in the 21stCentury. 


Goldsmiths UCU Executive notes that:

·         On 16 March 2018, a group of students autonomously organised a peaceful protest in support of the UCU strike action being taken by staff at SOAS. 

·         Two students who took part in the student action of March 16th 2018 are currently facing disciplinary proceedings initiated by the School on the basis of allegations of physical misconduct, and in one case, abusive behaviour.

·         Formal complaints in relation to the events of 16th March have been made not only against the students currently under investigation but also by at least one of them.

We support the position taken by our colleagues in SOAS UCU:

·         That the disciplinary process initiated against the students has not adhered to basic concepts of fairness, specifically with regard to equal access by all parties to CCTV footage of the alleged misconduct, and the acceptance of evidence put forward by the students in question.

·         A basic standard of procedural fairness as it relates to the Information Compliance Team has not been met in these proceedings, in contrast to previous student disciplinary proceedings.

·         That a process of mediation would allow complaints to be aired with a more positive resolution in the aftermath of a fractious dispute that has created deep frustration amongst many constituents in the School.

We resolve to:

·         Support efforts by our colleagues in SOAS UCU and SOAS Students’ Union to secure justice for the students under investigation.

·         Support the call upon SOAS senior management to suspend the disciplinary proceedings with immediate effect and to initiate a process of mediation between the students currently under investigation and those parties alleging misconduct.

Passed by GUCU executive 20.07.2018

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