Cumbria’s chair of governors exits in wake of critical report

July 12, 2010

The University of Cumbria’s chair of governors is to step down later this year after an independent report criticised the “shortcomings” of the troubled institution’s board.

Peter Ballard, who was not criticised personally in the report, will stand aside after a new chair is found in a recruitment drive that will also aim to replace a third of the board’s independent directors.

The review, carried out by higher education consultant David Fletcher, who was secretary of the Committee of University Chairs for nine years, highlights problems in Cumbria’s management and governance.

The institution is likely to face a deficit of £30 million by the end of the financial year, having confronted a series of problems since it was formed by the merger of further and higher education colleges in August 2007.

In his report, Dr Fletcher says that Cumbria has the “processes and procedures” necessary for good governance, but adds that further research has revealed weaknesses.

“Although the board has been operating in exceptionally challenging circumstances, it is clear…there have been shortcomings in both the management and governance of the university in its first two years of operation,” says the Review of the Effectiveness of the University Board.

“However, there is a clear sense that the board has been operating more effectively since September 2009 when the full seriousness of the situation was appreciated.”

Dr Fletcher’s recommendations include a call for current board members to “consider whether the long-term interests of the university would be better served if some of their number relinquished their places”.

A Cumbria spokesman said the university would start its search for directors with “high-level” expertise in areas including finance this week and hoped they would be able to start in October.

Graham Upton, who was appointed Cumbria’s interim vice-chancellor in May in the wake of previous head Peter McCaffery’s departure, said: “All board members have been keen to reflect fully and carefully on lessons learned over the past three years and ensure that these inform the future operation of the board.”

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