One of higher education's top ambassadors, Roderick Floud, has been branded a "fat cat" over his appointment as president of London Metropolitan University immediately after his retirement as its vice-chancellor.
Lecturers' union Natfhe has argued that the re-employment of Professor Floud breached the spirit of a "single leader" requirement set by the Higher Education Funding Council for England when it approved and funded the 2001 merger from which the university was created.
Natfhe claimed that the re-employment was not properly discussed by governors and that the job was never open to competition.
Jenny Golden, Natfhe's regional official for London, said: "This accession... smacks of a stitch-up for a fat cat and is contrary to the equality polices that the university espouses. There was no discussion or consultation over this. Many governors were kept in the dark. It was just announced, with scant explanation. And there was no advertisement process to ensure the best person got the job."
London Metropolitan was created from a merger between London Guildhall University, run by Professor Floud as provost, and the University of North London, run by Brian Roper as vice-chancellor.
Professor Floud, who was also president of national vice-chancellors'
umbrella group Universities UK in 2003, was initially named vice-chancellor of the merged institution while Professor Roper became chief executive.
When Hefce approved the merger and provided £6.5 million for restructuring, it stipulated that the roles of chief executive and vice-chancellor should be combined within three years.
Professor Floud retired as vice-chancellor in March and became president on a part-time basis in April. Professor Roper has taken executive control.
Governors were told about Professor Floud's retirement and appointment as president in a letter dated January 5. Minutes of a board of governors meeting on March 24 record concerns by staff governor Helen Peters that the matter had not been approved by the full board.
"None of this was discussed at governors," Ms Peters told The Times Higher .
"In addition, at about this time both Floud and Roper were awarded substantial pay rises."
But the clerk to the governors confirmed that the appointment process was in accordance with the university's articles of association.
A spokesman for London Met accused Natfhe of trying to exacerbate the current industrial dispute. She said Professor Floud's role was key to raising the university's external profile and increasing funding from non-state sources.
She added that Professor Floud's appointment was consistent with Hefce's requirement that the role of vice-chancellor and chief executive be combined. Arrangements had been properly ratified by the board of governors, she said.
Hefce declined to comment.