A need for 'change' spurs v-c to step down

December 3, 2004

A principled objection to top-up fees contributed to Gillian Slater's shock decision to resign as vice-chancellor of Bournemouth University, she said in an interview with The Times Higher this week, writes Phil Baty.

Professor Slater said she would "prefer not to be still here when top-up fees come in" and said other vice-chancellors had told her privately that they planned to quit symbolically in 2006 on the day top-up fees come in.

Bournemouth announced this week that Professor Slater, for a short time the only female vice-chancellor in the sector and now one of 14, had decided to retire early.

But she fuelled speculation about her departure by describing her decision to go - at the age of 56, before the end of her contract and without another post to go to - as a "resignation" in an email to her staff.

Professor Slater sent the rumour mill into overdrive as she told staff:

"This is a very amicable situation, so please don't believe any rumours to the contrary."

But speaking to The Times Higher , Professor Slater insisted that she had simply decided that, after ten years, she and the university would benefit from a change.

She said she had not fallen out with her board, the university was in a strong financial position and she wanted to spend more time with her family - she is married with two daughters and three stepsons.

Asked whether the introduction of top-up fees had influenced her decision to go, she said: "There is a small element of that."

As one of the highest profile opponents of the Government's policy when it passed through Parliament, she said: "People know from the stand I took that I am unhappy about the government policy."

She said that she thought Bournemouth, likely to charge the full £3,000 fees for most courses, would "cope very well" under the market-based fee regime.

But she said: "Personally, I'm uncomfortable with it so I would prefer not to be still here when the fees actually come in."

Professor Slater said that she had decided it would be irresponsible to leave on the day fees come in, in September 2006, as her successor would need time to get his or her "feet under the table".

But she confirmed that "one or two" of her fellow vice-chancellors had told her they would leave their jobs on the day fees were introduced.

Professor Slater would not be pressed, however, on who these vice-chancellors were.

Among 15 vice-chancellors who joined Professor Slater in signing a letter opposing top-ups in April were Malcolm McVicar of the University of Central Lancashire, Mike Thorne of the University of East London and Chris Taylor of Bradford University.

Professor Slater will leave in autumn 2005.

Alan Frost, the chair of governors, said: "The university has benefited greatly from Professor Slater's vision, enthusiasm and leadership. We shall miss her greatly."

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