United Kingdom

Letter to the editor—The Warburg responds

The vice-chancellor of the University of London understandably paints a picture of harmony; but it is a mirage

In his response to your piece about the plight of the Warburg Institute, the vice-chancellor of the University of London understandably paints a picture of harmony; but it is a mirage. Far from agreeing in 2004 to a process of convergence with the central academic libraries of the university, both the director and the advisory council of the Warburg Institute expressed concern over whether it was consistent with the Trust Deed of 1944; but the information strategy that included the process was approved by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) [which funds the university], and the dean of the day informed the institute’s director that future funding for the Warburg depended on accepting convergence.

Unfortunately, the university had not informed Hefce about the trust deed, and did not seek legal advice about its meaning until 2008. Under present arrangements, development of the collections does indeed remain in the hands of the institute, but the board of trustees has proposed to seek a change in the deed so that the management of the collections would rest with the Research Library Services of the university and the staff of the institute would have a merely advisory role in their development. The vice-chancellor says that the university is not “trying to curtail the Warburg’s independence”. Yet it has proposed to set about replacing the trust deed, which obliges it to maintain the institute as an independent unit, with a new deed that contains no mention of independence. The “full involvement” of the advisory council in the deliberations of the university about the future of the institute consists of its repeated objections to what it regards as wrongful and harmful changes and its repeated experience of seeing those objections ignored or rejected.

—Michael Reeve, chairman, advisory council, Warburg Institute

Send your letters to the Editor to: 70 South Lambeth Road London SW8 1RL UK or email: j.morris [at] theartnewspaper.com

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