University of Sussex vice chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, has joined campus contractors Balfour Beatty and Compass Group on the Leadership Council of the ‘National Centre for Universities and Business’ (NUCB). He took up his seat in December 2014.

The Leadership Council is formed of 52 vice chancellors and over 40 senior business leaders. It describes itself as “a powerful networking body”.

Michael Farthing will receive invitations to “Chatham House style meetings”, as a member of the group. The Chatham House Rule says that Participants are free to use information discussed during a meeting but nothing should be done to identify who said what.

Balfour Beatty is the preferred bidder for the £120 million redevelopment of the East Slope Residences and the only construction group represented on the NUCB Leadership Council. The 2000 bedroom accommodation project will also include a new Students’ Union building. Both buildings will be managed by Balfour Beatty for the next 50 years.

The Compass Group have been running campus catering and conference facilities since being  awarded the £43 million contract in August 2013 and will be running these services for at least ten years. They are the only catering firm represented on the NUCB Leadership Council.

According to the NUCB website: “The Leadership Council establishes the priorities for university-business collaboration.

“By bringing together expertise from every single part of the UK and a range of economic sectors the Leadership Council can identify the challenges at the interface between universities and business and how to work together on them.

“In this way the Leadership Council guides the work of the NCUB, with their recommendations setting NCUB’s priority areas, leading to our Task Forces and Projects and ensuring NCUB is led by leaders.

“The Leadership Council also has a formal role to evaluate, advise on and approve membership of the NCUB Board of Directors and our annual corporate strategy.”

Sussex student, ‘Free Education’ campaign member and NUS delegate candidate Max Odonnell-Savage wrote:

“This clearly shows the ever increasing marketisation of our education system, the same marketisation that says students should pay fees and the same marketisation that says staff should be outsourced and their working conditions worsened in the pursuit of creating more profit at any cost.

“It is quite fitting as university managers are not part of the university community. They are, in fact, disliked by it. They have far more in common with ultra wealthy exploitative business leaders than with students or staff at a university.”
A University of Sussex spokesperson said: “Sussex’s membership of the NCUB is about the University engaging with the outside world to the benefit of our students, in particular with regard to their future employability.

“Member organisations such as the NCUB allow us to talk with businesses and other organisations in order to establish and strengthen our links and partnerships.”

Michael Farthing became Vice Chancellor of the University of Sussex in September  2007. He has presided over the controversial outsourcing of accommodation, catering and ‘estates and facilities’ services.

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