The London School of Economics is to appoint a caretaker director following the debacle surrounding Sir John Bourn's surprise decision to turn down the job.
The news came as the Department of National Heritage announced that the LSE's current director, John Ashworth, has a new job as chairman of the British Library Board. He will take up the five-year appointment from September. Current chairman, Sir Anthony Kenny, has agreed to stay on until then.
Dr Ashworth's contract expires on August 31. LSE pro-director Leslie Hannah will then take over unless a full-time replacement has been appointed, which sources say is unlikely.
The LSE standing committee recommended Professor Hannah's temporary appointment at a meeting on Monday. It ruled out reconsidering the existing directorship shortlist and recommended that a "fresh start" is made at the court of governors' meeting on March 14. The committee also backed a recommendation to review appointments procedures.
A minute of Monday's meeting said: "Sir John had informed the chairman of the court over the weekend that for personal reasons he no longer intended to accept the offer made by the court on 7 December 1995 and he confirmed this in writing on 19 February.
"The committee was disappointed at the news, since the selection committee's recommendation had been submitted to the court only after Sir John had indicated his willingness to accept the appointment if it was offered to him, subject to the formal procedures he needed to follow as an officer of the House of Commons."
Following a meeting of professors on Wednesday, Professor Hannah said: "There is a feeling of resignation at the mess. I think John Ashworth will be better judged by history since he raised all the right issues and disagreement was only ever over implementation."
The student union says it views the whole episode as a "farce" and will call for an end to "secretive" selection procedures at the court meeting.