Liverpool John Moores University’s finance director and deputy chief executive preceded its vice-chancellor out of the exit door, it has emerged, making a pair of sudden senior departures at the institution.
The university said on 14 September that Nigel Weatherill, appointed vice-chancellor in September 2011, had resigned “with immediate effect”.
Now it has emerged that Julie Bertolini, formerly deputy chief executive, university secretary and finance director, resigned on 30 August. The university did not announce her departure.
Rod Hill, the university’s chair of governors, also left the university on 1 October. An LJMU spokesman said that Mr Hill had retired at the end of his term of office and “plans for his departure and succession had been under way since the beginning of the year”.
Following Professor Weatherill’s exit, Mark Power, previously university registrar, has taken over as acting chief executive.
Asked by Times Higher Education about the reasons for the departures, an LJMU spokesman said that the university did “not comment publicly on matters relating to individual employees for reasons of confidentiality”.
The spokesman added: “However, in terms of their official roles: as confirmed in the official announcement, Nigel Weatherill stepped down as vice-chancellor and chief executive on 14 September, following discussion with the board of governors; Julie Bertolini resigned from her position as finance director, deputy chief executive and university secretary on 30 August.
“Appointments of successors are in train and the business of the university continues under the leadership of Mark Power.”
LJMU’s spokesman did not respond to a question about whether long-running complications over a proposed building project have been a factor in the turbulence at senior level.
In August 2011, LJMU bought the site of a former Royal Mail sorting office next to Lime Street station at the heart of Liverpool city centre, at a reported price of about £2.6 million.
In 2014, the university announced plans to turn the site into a huge £80 million campus complex – with a football pitch on the roof. The projected cost rose to £100 million the following year.
But in November 2016, that plan was scrapped and work on the site stopped. An email from Professor Weatherill to staff, reported by the Liverpool Echo, blamed the fact that projected costs had increased “in the order of 35 per cent” in the previous year, adding that the “external environment has changed” (the Brexit vote came months before).
The former sorting office building was demolished last year and LJMU has put forward an alternative £64 million plan to build “student life” and sports buildings at the site, hoping to get the new facilities open by autumn 2020.
But the university is still waiting on a decision from Liverpool City Council on the planning application, with local Labour councillors pledging to oppose it.
LJMU’s spokesman said that a decision was imminent “and the university looks forward to work commencing on this new flagship site”.