London university replaces chair of governors after review

Independent process ‘found several areas in which we will need to improve our board of governors’ processes’, says UEL

December 10, 2019
Anulika Ajufo
Anulika Ajufo

A London university has replaced its chair of governors following a governance review.

The University of East London announced last month that it had elected Anulika Ajufo, an investment professional at the Soros Impact Investment Fund, as its new chair of governors, stating that its previous chair Geoff Thompson had been “asked to step down following a review of governance practices”.

Ms Ajufo said: “The university has conducted an independent review and found several areas in which we will need to improve our board of governors’ processes. The board will be advancing the way we work to ensure that our governance procedures support our progressive learning environment for our students, staff and partners. 

“As we have now reached a turning point as a board and as a university, we have asked our previous chair, Geoff Thompson, to stand down from this role to allow the university to move into a new era of growth. We would like to thank Geoff for his tenure during a transformative period for the university.”

Mr Thompson, a former world heavyweight karate champion, became UEL’s chair in 2017. The university declined to say exactly why he was asked to resign.

Earlier this year, Mr Thompson’s charity, Youth Charter, was relocated from Manchester to UEL’s Stratford campus. The organisation, which trains volunteers to deliver sports, arts and social-based activities for young people aged between 10 and 19, was set up by Mr Thompson 26 years ago following the shooting of a 14-year-old in Manchester’s Moss Side.

Among those to attend the opening of the charity’s new offices on 7 March 2019 were World Athletics president Lord Coe and Amanda Broderick, UEL’s vice-chancellor, who said that the new Youth Charter centre “reinforces our view that civic community will be at the heart of the university”.

At the time, UEL said that more than 300 of its students had already been recruited to volunteer, and that hundreds more would join them.

Writing for Times Higher Education in March 2018, Mr Thompson described how a “community campus” model, in which youth activities can be delivered in a “safe space” such as a higher education institution, was at the heart of the Youth Charter’s work.

“As chair of governors” at UEL, Mr Thompson wrote, he had “pledged to…commit university resources to provide a hub for the developing community campus to tackle issues of disaffection, exclusion and crime”.

Michael Shattock, visiting professor at the UCL Institute of Education and co-author of the recently published book The Governance of British Higher Education, said that while it was “relatively unusual” for a university to announce the departure of the chair of governors so publicly, he did not see any problem, in general, with UEL working closely with community charities.

“Indeed, it was very much in the spirit of the recommendations of the recent Civic University Commission report,” he said.

Speaking generally, “it was important that the vice-chancellor remained ‘the accountable officer’ and had full control over any activity for which the university was responsible”, Professor Shattock added.

THE was unable to contact Mr Thompson or the Youth Charter charity for comment, despite efforts to reach them by phone, email and via social media.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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