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6 Feb, 2015 18:17

Warwick students pass no-confidence vote against college boss after violent police crackdown

Warwick students pass no-confidence vote against college boss after violent police crackdown

Students at the University of Warwick have passed a vote of no-confidence against their Vice Chancellor Sir Nigel Thrift, citing his abuse of powers following a brutal police crackdown on a student protest last year.

Warwick Students’ Union issued a statement declaring the body now adopts the motion “No Confidence in Nigel Thrift” as policy.

The motion, which was proposed by third-year politics student Miguel Costa Matos, passed with a 70 percent majority, gaining the support of 682 students out of 1120.

It follows the creation of a petition on 38degree.org.uk calling for Thrift’s knighthood to be rescinded. The petition had 684 signatures as of Friday afternoon.

Thrift, a leading scientist who has held posts at the University of Oxford and Bristol University, was awarded a knighthood last December in honor of his services to higher education.

However, the student body accuses him of overseeing a university which curbs the salaries of academics and teachers, while he enriches himself and other senior management with lucrative pay rises.

The Students’ Union motion also points to the brutal police suppression of a student protest against rising tuition fees on December 3 last year.

At the time, a spokesman for Warwick University said security guards were subjected to a “shocking and unprovoked act of violence,” which prompted them to call for police.

Nigel Thrift (Photo from wikipedia.org)

Activists said the protest was peaceful until they were besieged by security personnel and officers.

West Midlands Police were caught on video using tear gas and aggressive force to break up the demonstration, which took place inside the university’s Senate House.

Campaign group ‘Warwick for a Free Education’ alleges that protesters were “punched, pushed onto the floor, dragged, rammed by their throat into the wall and kneed in the face.”

In a statement issued at the time, the group also said “at least 20 students were assaulted by university security and police.

Matos, a politics student who proposed the motion, said the vote demonstrated that Thrift had “lost the confidence of those he is meant to support.”

Something has gone seriously wrong when students find themselves in opposition to university management.

In a functional education system, a university would be run in the interests of students and staff, rather than against them. Unfortunately, Nigel Thrift is evidence that this is not the case,” he added.

Speaking to RT, History student Sam Lovett said: "I'm not surprised by the result - students have become increasingly dissatisfied with Nigel Thrift."

"Alongside the repeated rise in his salary over the past couple of years the decision to award him a knighthood may have been the final straw for many students. It's safe to say many of us will be relieved when he departs from the University later in the year," he added.

Warwick student Sian Elvin, who is also Deputy Editor of The Boar student newspaper, said the vote demonstrates “just how politically engaged our university is.”

Sit in outside nigel's office! No confidence in Nigel Thrift! Come and join us in uni house #Freeeducationpic.twitter.com/dKDlqZSpCO

— WFFE (@WarwickFreeEd) February 6, 2015

Speaking to RT, she said: “I think that this response from students is a backlash to the university establishment increasingly being run more like a business, and I think that the University, and Thrift, will have to do a lot to restore the confidence of its students.”

Thrift’s tenure at Warwick University has experienced a number of controversies, including the high profile suspension and subsequent reinstatement of literature professor Thomas Docherty.

Docherty endured a nine-month suspension for “sighing” and giving off “negative vibes” during job interviews in a way which undermined the authority of Professor Catherine Bates, the former head of department.

An outspoken critic of the marketization of education, Dochtery was eventually cleared of all allegations made against him by a university tribunal.

Warwick University’s legal bill for pursuing the case exceeded £100K, after they agreed to cover the £66,000 legal bill incurred by Docherty