Plymouth University appoints Judith Petts as new vice-chancellor

University of Southampton pro vice-chancellor to take helm after a year of turmoil at Plymouth

September 28, 2015
Judith Petts, vice-chancellor of Plymouth University

Plymouth University has appointed a new vice-chancellor after a period of turmoil during which the previous head of the institution was suspended.

Judith Petts, a pro vice-chancellor at the University of Southampton for research and enterprise who previously worked in retail and banking, will begin her role at Plymouth in February 2016.

She started her academic career in the universities of Nottingham and Loughborough. She then moved to the University of Birmingham, where she was head of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences from 2001 to 2007.

Professor Petts is also a member of a number of scientific advisory councils, including at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She was awarded a CBE for scientific services in 2012.

The appointment comes after prolonged upheaval at Plymouth. In July 2014, the former vice-chancellor Wendy Purcell was suspended by the then chair of governors William Taylor, in relation to a complaint by a senior member of staff about her management style and claims about allegedly excessive spending.

Mr Taylor then stepped down from his role after allegations emerged of sexual harassment against female students and members of staff – claims he denied.

In November 2014, Professor Purcell returned as vice-chancellor, but not to run the university. David Coslett, the deputy vice-chancellor, was confirmed as an interim chief executive. In January this year, Professor Purcell because “president” of the university, although kept her £250,000 a year salary.

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