Pearson head silently probes UEL’s Cyprus campus closure

University of East London asks Sir David Melville to investigate international activities

August 22, 2013

The University of East London has undertaken a confidential report into its international activities, after the closure of a campus in Cyprus that recruited just 17 students in its first six months.

UEL asked Sir David Melville, former vice-chancellor of Middlesex and Kent universities and current chairman of Pearson Education, to carry out the investigation.

News that UEL was closing its Cyprus campus emerged in April. Before that, the institution had experienced a period of turmoil, with three of its most senior figures leaving within a month over Christmas and the new year. Patrick McGhee, the vice-chancellor, left on health grounds, while the institution’s pro vice-chancellor international and director of finance both resigned.

As Times Higher Education has reported, minutes from a governors’ meeting in May 2012 show concerns about the Cyprus project in its development stage, with some governors warning that “completion of the necessary due diligence had not been demonstrated”.

During development, governors were told that the Cyprus campus would require potential funding from UEL of up to €1.5 million (£1.28 million).

Minutes from a governors’ meeting in May 2013 show that the governors received “a confidential oral report from Sir David Melville summarising his investigation into the university’s recent international activities and the contents of his draft report on the matter”.

A UEL spokeswoman said: “The report is not available externally in order to protect our university’s commercial interests. In line with good practice, we appointed an external consultant to carry out a review. As is customary with all reports, we will be learning from any recommendations the report makes.”

John Joughin has been appointed UEL vice-chancellor after the departure of Professor McGhee.

Minutes from a March governors’ meeting say the panel that interviewed Professor McGhee before his appointment was “too large and had made detailed questioning difficult”.

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