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Proposals for a federal collaboration between the Universities of Lancaster and Liverpool have been halted after discussions between the two institutions reached the conclusion that the move would not be productive at this time.
In a joint statement to senior University management, Vice Chancellor Professor Mark Smith of Lancaster and Vice Chancellor Professor Sir Howard Newby of Liverpool said that “after extensive discussions between both institutions through which areas of positive benefit have been identified, we have agreed that we should not proceed with the federal model since we do not believe it is possible to secure the transformational benefits at this time.”
Collaboration between Lancaster and Liverpool looks set to continue in two particular areas despite this announcement. The University’s statement outlines that “we will continue to explore the benefits of joint international collaborations and the potential for a joint Graduate School, given the significant common ground identified during our discussions.”
These areas were marked as significant by an initial Green Paper, published on 19th September 2011, which explored the potential for collaboration between the two universities.
This followed the establishment of a Joint Strategic Planning Group in June 2011, which initiated discussions and produced the Green Paper which was then criticised by Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU) and some University staff for its lack of detail and risk assessment.
The original discussions were understood by many, including Subtext newsletter, as surrounding a ‘merger’ between Lancaster and Liverpool, which was quickly denied at the time by then-Vice Chancellor of Lancaster Professor Paul Wellings.
The federal model now shelved by the universities would have been in this vein; the universities’ statement shows that “models of closer integration” were indeed being considered to allow Lancaster and Liverpool to “collaborate in our long-term strategic interest.”
In March 2012 a Joint Venture Company (JVC) between Lancaster and Liverpool was approved by University Council with a view to facilitating collaboration.
In a statement to SCAN, Chief Operating Officer Andrew Neal explained that “The Joint Venture Company is a simple enabling device that would allow Lancaster and Liverpool Universities to have joint control of any work commissioned in relation to the ongoing discussions around collaboration.”
Neal added that “A JV company is a very common device for joint working.”
Whether these developments will affect the function of the JVC remains unclear, as information was not forthcoming from the University.
Lancaster and Liverpool already have established collaborative projects in medicine, particle physics and socials sciences.
This most recent statement stressed that “[w]e will, of course, continue to support current and future collaborations that are of immense value to both universities – in medical education, Particle Physics through the Cockcroft Institute, Zoonosis research, Eco-innovation and the Doctoral Training Centre in Humanities and Social Sciences.”
LUSU President George Gardiner was pleased with the announcement. Speaking to SCAN, Gardiner said that “It became clear that in many areas of the University, including LUSU, there was not an appetite to closely collaborate with Liverpool.
“This, alongside the apparent lack of transformational benefit from such a collaboration, has to suggest that ultimately Liverpool was not the right option at this time.”
Gardiner added that “student officers who had taken part in discussions had constantly expressed worries and doubts and these have been justified.”
On the prospect of future collaboration in international and Graduate strategy, the LUSU President said that these areas “have some potential, however it is still unclear what form they must take.”
He concluded, “what the University must do now is set it strategic direction for the coming years. This will probably be done in a more conventional manor and must see student input and engagement throughout.”