Canterbury Christ Church University has refused to give detailed reasons why it paid its former vice-chancellor £133,000 for “loss of office” after he quit with immediate effect.
Mystery still surrounds the sudden departure of Robin Baker from the Kent university in October 2012, with no explanation given for his exit.
At the time, a statement released by Canterbury said its governors had “accepted the resignation of the vice-chancellor” and agreed it would be “with immediate effect”.
However, the university’s annual accounts for 2012-13 show that Professor Baker, who took over at Canterbury in 2010, was paid £133,000 for “compensation for loss of office”.
This sum was a “severance payment…based on his contractual entitlements and is in line with Higher Education Funding Council for England guidance”, a Canterbury Christ Church spokeswoman said.
She declined to comment on whether Professor Baker, who was paid £203,000 in 2011-12, had been forced out at Canterbury, whose university motto is “the truth shall set you free”.
Publicly available minutes from a meeting of the institution’s governing council held in November 2012 also offer no clues.
The minutes state only that the clerk taking notes was asked to step outside the room “so the governors could discuss the matter privately”.
Andrew Ironside, who was acting vice-chancellor at the university until the appointment of Rama Thirunamachandran in October 2013, later said “there was a need to look forward not backward” in regard to Professor Baker’s departure, the minutes add.
The revelation over Professor Baker’s settlement follows concerns raised over payouts to university managers, such as the £589,000 paid to three senior managers at the University of East London, including vice-chancellor Patrick McGhee, who resigned shortly before news emerged that two overseas ventures had collapsed.
Since Professor Baker’s abrupt exit from Canterbury, local newspapers have uncovered several potentially embarrassing stories about his appointment and tenure.
According to the Kentish Gazette, a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that £45,000 was paid to recruitment firm Odgers Berndtson in 2010 to secure Professor Baker, who was then in charge at the University of Chichester. Meanwhile, £4,000 was spent on his installation ceremony at Canterbury Cathedral in February 2011, the first of its kind, led by Rowan Williams, then Archbishop of Canterbury.
In the summer of 2011, £153,000 was spent on refurbishing and improving his office buildings, which are equipped with an executive washroom, shower and kitchen, the Gazette also reported.
Professor Baker’s use of expenses and credit cards was also questioned after he racked up spending of £16,500 during his two-year tenure, including the purchase of first-class air travel, chocolates and flowers. He also claimed 12p in petrol for having a passenger in his car for a six-mile journey, among other expenses claims, reported the Gazette, which has suggested that his departure was linked to personal matters.