BOURNEMOUTH West candidate Conor Burns has defended the use of university branding in his election campaign leaflets after concerns it suggests an endorsement by the institutions.

Bournemouth University (BU) staff and union members have urged the vice-chancellor, Professor John Vinney to publicly request Mr Burns to stop distributing the leaflets, which feature a picture of him standing at a BU-branded lectern and both BU and Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) logos with the words: ‘Re-elect Conor Burns, BU and AUB’s strong local voice’.

John Brissenden, campaigns officer for the University and College Union (UCU) at Bournemouth University, said Professor Vinney had confirmed the university had contacted Mr Burns’ office “to reiterate the fact that it does not endorse any candidate, and that documents implying this should not be used.”

He added: “UCU members have meanwhile received copies of the leaflet despite the university’s request to Mr Burns.

“Any reasonable person might assume from this leaflet that BU has endorsed Conor Burns’ election campaign, or even that he is on the staff of the university.

“Unauthorised use of BU’s intellectual property by anyone at any time would be serious enough, but for a candidate to create such confusion in the context of a general election campaign is very troubling indeed. UCU members are angry that Mr Burns’ election leaflets may confuse voters in next week’s election. What will candidates for the other parties make of it all?”

A statement by Professor Vinney stopped short of calling out Mr Burns for his use of the university’s logo, but made it clear the university did not endorse any particular political party or candidate.

He said: “As a university, the principles of democracy are at the heart of all that we do - we do not stand for any particular view, party, or candidate, but we do believe that every vote is uniquely important and that staff and students should have their say on the future government of the UK.”

Vice-chancellor of AUB, Professor Stuart Bartholomew CBE, said the university also did not endorse the candidature of any parliamentary candidates.

"We are aware of the use without our permission of our logo on an electoral leaflet distributed by Conor Burns.

“Whilst we acknowledge the positive association with the former MP, in common with universities across the UK, we are particularly concerned with the following:

• The impact of Brexit on research funding, staff and student mobility

• The inclusion of international students in net migration figures

• The high levels of debt incurred by students on their studies and the long term impact of this on the sustainability of an inclusive higher education system”

Mr Burns defended his election campaign leaflet, saying claims it suggested an endorsement from either university were "utter nonsense".

“The accusation is driven by members of a trade union who also spend time attacking the vice-chancellor," he said, adding: "I have worked very hard over seven years to promote the interests of our universities that are so important for our local economy. I spend a lot of time on campus and do countless interviews with students for their projects.

"Of course I am going to campaign to get support from students based on my record of serving BU and AUB as their MP. What I suspect is irritating some is the level of support I am getting.

"Bournemouth University is very clear that it is politically neutral in the statement from their vice chancellor. I endorse that.”