Ultimate decision-making power in the university lies with the University Court, the university’s governing body. This is chaired by the rector (currently Peter McColl), who is directly elected by staff and students. The ‘head’ of the university is the principal (currently Tim O’Shea) who also sits on court. There are a number of other members of court, including two EUSA sabbatical officers (elected by students). These however are in the minority.
Management of investments is done by an investment committee, who also follow court guidance on ethical restrictions on investments. We do not know much about what is discussed at the investment committee – in fact, when the rector asked to see minutes of meetings, he was told they were commercially sensitive!
Fund management is done by an external fund manager, following the investment committee instructions. Until recently 100% of the university’s investments have been with the fund manager Bailie Gifford. However recently 50% of the investments have been moved elsewhere – 25% to fund improvements in the university’s estates and for building new student accommodation, and 25% to invest with a different fund manager – as yet undecided. As part of the Responsible Investment campaign we will be pushing for at least this 25% to be invested with a fund manager who uses ethical criteria.
What about EUSA’s investments?
As far as we know, EUSA (the Edinburgh University Students’ Association) does not have any significant investments – in fact their finances are very stretched.
However, EUSA and the university are very closely linked, and as the representative body for students, motions and referendum questions about the university’s investments go through EUSA – often in the form “EUSA should lobby the university to…”.
Some referendum questions in the past have also been about how EUSA procures its services. It runs all campus bars and many other venues therefore its procurement has a significant influence (even if its investments are not significant) – past motions relating to this have included a boycott of Nestle, which is still being implemented today.