Lancaster University has now recommended to its own Council that the nomination of Councillor Paul Aitchson to sit on University Council be accepted, months after he was elected as Labour Councillor for the University Ward on Lancaster City Council.
Cllr Aitchson, a Lancaster University student, was elected at a meeting on 15th June 2011, but as SCAN reported in October of that year there was controversy as University rules dictated that only two students may sit on Council – the University’s primary governing body – at any one time.
These elected positions are currently filled by LUSU President George Gardiner and chair of LUSU Council Danny Maguire.
On these grounds, the University rejected the City Council’s nomination of Cllr Aitchson.
The disagreement has been ongoing, but on Friday, 10th February 2012 a statement from University Secretary said that “The University has recommended to its Council that it approve the appointment of Coun Aitchison as a member of Council until such time as the Privy Council makes changes to the University Statutes to clarify the University’s requirements on nominations to its Council.”
The statement came on the same day as the University Council meeting at which Cllr Aitchson’s membership was approved.
Cllr Aitchson will now serve as the City Council’s representative on University Council for “about six months or so,” according to Aitken’s statement.
The Lancaster Guardian, reporting in November 2011, said that “The Council has examined the University’s rules but found no requirement for its representative to be a lay person. The University’s website also lists its representative separately from lay members.”
This has raised questions over ambiguities in the University’s regulations.
Furthermore, Joe Wright, “a friend and sympathetic member of the Union,” has suggested to SCAN that “the University Council, as part of the negotiations between itself and the city council, have let slip that they intend to change the statutes to ensure that only lay people will be allowed on the council in future. What does this say about the university’s attitude toward students and the wider community?”
The University’s statement refuted this sentiment. “The University values its links to the city and the city council and is pleased that a way forward seems to have been reached,” it said.