Tony Tysome on the background to the latest move in the Southampton Institute saga
Southampton Institute governors have been told by funding council chiefs that the institute faces "significant risks" over campus unrest.
Brian Fender, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council, has written to advise them they must decide for themselves how to address "questions of individual style" in management which have been the subject of critical reports and complaints from staff.
Professor Fender's letter to David Smith, the chairman of governors, was followed by a governors meeting last week after which Brian Cotton, director of academic operations, was asked to take voluntary redundancy.
This week staff were demanding a statement over claims that David Leyland, the director, was also asked to quit at the same meeting. As The THES went to press the institute would neither confirm nor deny the allegations.
Governors have been sworn to secrecy over the outcome of the meeting. Peter Coombs, teaching staff representative on the governing body, would only say: "The meeting was about a decision and a decision was taken. As far as I was concerned when I left, proper governance was going on."
Isobel Black, an independent governor, said: "The situation is very sensitive." Professor Cotton is the second director involved in the setting up of the institute's Athens campus, which was shut down following criticisms from the Higher Education Quality Council, to be asked to take redundancy. Last summer, Chris Hutchinson, the former director of overseas operations, was asked to go.
A memo from Professor Leyland issued to staff this week said information on matters discussed at the governors meeting "is no longer confidential". It states: "The voluntary redundancy of Professor Brian Cotton, director of academic operations, was approved with effect from August 31 1997." But it says nothing about Professor Leyland's position.
The letter from Professor Fender followed a meeting with David Smith on April 18 to discuss the findings of a second HEFCE audit of the institute. It says auditors found that although foreign projects had been rushed, there was no evidence of irregularities.
But Professor Fender adds that sufficient concerns were expressed during the audit to prompt examination of "a range of other issues".
He says: "Although the institute is an academically and financially successful institution, the current arrangements do expose the institute to some significant risks. It is the council's view that matters of this kind, particularly where it involves questions of individual style, are best addressed by institutions themselves."
The story so far
June 1995: Bid for university status. July 1995: Union survey reveals low staff morale and criticises management style. September 1995: Part-time construction degree cancelled, leaving 32 students stranded. May 1996: HEQC slams overseas operations. Nottingham Trent University investigates Channel Islands complaints about institute's advertisements. Unions press for resignation of director.He wins governors' vote of confidence. June 1996: Secret ballot of staff calls for Leyland's resignation. October 1996: Nottingham Trent review criticises management. November 1996: Clean bill of health from HEFCE audit. December 1996: Second HEFCE audit. Independent report from Professor Geoffrey Hall calls for new style of leadership. February 1997: Leyland dismisses parts of Hall report, despite support for it from governors. March 1997: Leyland orders hunt by ex-policeman for publishers of internal spoof newsletter. Nottingham Trent report criticises Alicante operation. NAO decides to compile report based on HEFCE's audits.
SOUTHAMPTON INSTITUTE BOARD OF GOVERNORS
David Leyland Director
Appointed 1989. Former deputy director at Teesside Polytechnic. Dean of built environment at Birmingham Polytechnic. Various previous positions in town planning and architecture in the UK and Australia.
David Smith Independent chair of governors since 1989.
Director of Hampshire Technology Centre and former chairman and managing director of Esso Chemical.
Ian Pirie Independent
Governor since 1984, nominated by the CBI, after sitting on its council. Manager in food and manufacturing industries.
John Illston Independent
Governor since 1992. Ex-director of Hatfield Poly.
Malcolm Le Bas Independent Chairs board's governance committee. Governor since 1989. Lawyer.
Sharon Burns Independent
Governor since May 1996. Entrepreneur. Formertutor at institute's Small Business Enterprise Unit.
Bill Cutting Independent
Governor since 1993. Retired civil and mechanical engineer and former chief of Southern Water.
Geoff Goodrich Independent
Former chair of governors. Independent governor since 1988. Ex-dean of engineering at the institute.
Brian Count Independent
Governor since 1995. Board director withNational Power.
Peter Doble Independent
Governor since 1989.Master mariner .
Mike Love Independent
Chartered accountant and company director Mike Marchant Independent
Governor since 1992.P &O head of training.
Isobel Black Independent
Governor since 1994. Actress.
Phil Purves Academic board nominee.
New member. Term of office, two years. Seniorlecturer in maritime faculty.
David Mackie Student nominee
Governor since 1996.President of student union.
Jill Rattle Co-opted Head of Regent's Park girls school, Southampton.
Peter Coombs Teaching staff rep
Recently appointed. Course leader BA European Policy and Modern Languages.
Kathy Stallwood Support staff rep
Recently re-elected to board.
Mike Andrews Co-opted
Governor since 1989.Former vice-chairman and acting chair. Leader of Southampton City Council Conservative group.
Terry Holden-Brown Co-opted
Governor since 1993. Chartered civil and structural engineer.
Letters, page 15