As regular readers will know, I used to work at University College London, and old friend Colin Grimshaw still works at Imperial College. Colin sent me the news this morning that the proposed merger between Imperial College and University College London has been called off after running into intense opposition from academic staff. Today’s news, killing off the idea of a London super-university to eclipse Oxford and Cambridge, is a bitter blow for the two principals who launched the plan last month.
Sir Derek Roberts, acting provost of UCL, spoke about the “hypocrisy” and “lies” of opponents among academic staff, who have campaigned vigorously against the plan he put forward with Sir Richard Sykes, rector of Imperial College. Merger between the two institutions would, the two vice-chancellors argued, have created potentially the greatest university in the country, attracting more research funding than Oxbridge and competing with global giants like Harvard. But opponents argued the merger was a takeover by Imperial and raised fears of redundancies.
Sir Derek said opponents had used deliberate scare tactics, such as suggesting all the physical sciences would be moved from UCL’s Bloomsbury site to Imperial. “That’s an absolute lie – there has been no such decision and the whole idea is ludicrous,” he said. “This fantastic opportunity to create not only an outstanding institution in London and the UK, but something that has a chance of operating in the world league of teaching and research has a fair chance of being thrown away because of the bias and ill-informed views that have influenced people without wanting to explore the facts. My view? Shame – another victory for the Luddites!