Duke of York steps down as Huddersfield chancellor

Students had called for royal to quit over friendship with convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein

November 21, 2019
University of Huddersfield
Source: iStock
University of Huddersfield

The Duke of York has left his post as chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, following his decision to step back from royal duties.

The prince, who started his five-year term as chancellor in 2015, took the decision amid continuing criticism of his friendship with the convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein.

Huddersfield Students’ Union had called on 20 November for the duke to step down as chancellor after a BBC interview in which he denied any sexual contact with a woman who says she was forced to have sex with him at the age of 17.

He was widely criticised for failing to express sympathy for Epstein’s victim and saying that he did not regret the friendship.

Huddersfield said that “due to the circumstances and in discussion with the university”, the duke had “decided to step down immediately to allow the university to appoint a successor”.

The university had previously defended its association with the royal, referring to his denial of wrongdoing and describing his “enthusiasm for innovation and entrepreneurship” as “a natural fit with the work of the university”.

The students’ union motion had said that Huddersfield “should not be represented by a man with ties to organised child sexual exploitation and assault”.

In its latest statement, Huddersfield said that it “would like to thank the duke for his work during his period as chancellor”.

“The duke has informed the university that ‘he continues to unequivocally condemn Jeffrey Epstein’s activities and regrets his ill-judged association with him. His suicide has left many unanswered questions, particularly for his victims, and he deeply sympathises with everyone who has been affected and wants some form of closure.’ The university would also like to express [its] deep sympathy to all of those victims and families that have been affected and [it does] hope that they are getting the support they need,” the statement said.

Huddersfield Students’ Union said that it “look[ed] forward to welcoming a new chancellor who puts students’ values at the heart of everything they do”.

“We know that students will welcome this decision, and the students’ union would like to offer our sympathy to the victims of Epstein and all those affected by sexual abuse across the world,” it said in a statement.

Huddersfield said that it aimed to appoint a new chancellor at its March 2020 council meeting, with the aim of installing the new postholder in July 2020. The students’ union would coordinate the nominations process, the university said.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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