Deputy leader steps down only seven months after taking up post

Manager who blamed top staff for financial woes leaves Gloucestershire. Melanie Newman writes

December 10, 2009

The deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Gloucestershire has resigned shortly after being suspended from his post and just seven months after he joined the institution.

Paul Bowler, a former investment banker who joined Gloucestershire in May, was on a week's leave in November when he was told not return to work.

On 7 December, a university spokesman said: "The deputy vice-chancellor (operations), Paul Bowler, has resigned. Financial benefits have not been sought by Mr Bowler, who is leaving of his own accord to pursue other interests."

The spokesman added that while at Gloucestershire, Mr Bowler had "helped the university develop a significant change agenda, which will continue in the months ahead".

Mr Bowler joined from Macquarie University in Australia, where he was deputy vice-chancellor. His remit was to return Gloucestershire, which has the second-worst debt-to-income ratio of any UK university, to financial health.

He was the driving force behind proposals to close the university's London and Cheltenham campuses, which were announced this autumn.

A report by Mr Bowler into the faculty of education, humanities and sciences in September found that the faculty had overstated its income by £1.5 million for 2009-10. In the document, he says there had been a "large investment in high-risk, unresearched new business at a time of global recession", that resources had been used for "chasing speculative income" and that "there was no risk-management strategy, and financial control was overlooked".

He adds: "Staff were encouraged to make imprudent business decisions and failed to adhere to costing processes. A culture of 'the higher the risk, the greater the reward' became embedded."

Keith Sharp, dean of the faculty, has left the university. He is now head of the UK Higher Education International Unit, which is financed by the three UK funding councils, the Department for Employment and Learning in Northern Ireland, Guild HE and Universities UK.

In a message to staff in November, Patricia Broadfoot, Gloucestershire's vice-chancellor, said of Mr Bowler: "The deputy vice-chancellor for operations will not be carrying out his duties at the university until further notice. Departmental reports are being temporarily reallocated to other senior staff."

Speculation about Mr Bowler's suspension and subsequent departure has focused on his decision to publicly blame senior management for the university's economic woes.

He is understood to have opened one recent campus meeting attended by the vice-chancellor with a reference to a "management mess".

Mr Bowler was working closely at Gloucestershire with an accountant whose services were paid for by the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The accountant is understood to have been based on the Gloucestershire campus for some time.

Mr Bowler declined to comment on his departure.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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