Purcell hit by Plymouth UCU 'no confidence' vote

Union members at Plymouth University have given their vice-chancellor, Wendy Purcell, a vote of no confidence.

October 31, 2014

Source: British Council

The move by University and College Union members at Plymouth is likely to be seen as an attempt by them to ensure there is no return for Professor Purcell, who was suspended in July and is currently on paid leave.

Negotiations are currently ongoing between the Plymouth governors and Professor Purcell.

An announcement on her future is expected next week. The special committee of the board of governors that was investigating her has now passed its report to the independent governors, who will make the final decision as to whether she is reinstated, leaves with compensation, or is dismissed.

The UCU said that 95 per cent of members who voted backed a motion of no confidence in Professor Purcell.

Philippa Davey, UCU regional officer, said: “We fear that the continuing soap opera at the university could do real damage to the institution’s reputation.

“This vote shows that academic staff have no faith in the leadership and decision-making of Wendy Purcell. The time has come for a new culture of accountability, transparency and openness at Plymouth.”

The university has never disclosed the charges against Professor Purcell. But it is thought that the case against her includes allegations about her spending and a complaint about her management style from a senior member of staff.

The UCU said that “in the most recent staff survey the proportion of staff who said they did not think the university senior leadership team ‘listens to and responds to the views of staff’ rose from 33 per cent in 2010 to 47 per cent in 2013. Over the same period, the proportion of staff thinking ‘changes have been well communicated and explained’ fell from 60 per cent to 38 per cent.”

William Taylor, the retired judge and former chair of governors at Plymouth, took the decision to suspend Professor Purcell. Since then, allegations that he sexually harassed female students and staff have emerged in the media.

Mr Taylor, who denies the allegations, has stepped down from his post, to be replaced on November 3 by James Brent, an existing governor.

An independent report into the allegations set up by the university, led by the barrister Simon Cheetham, is understood to have now concluded and gone before the governors.

john.morgan@tesglobal.com

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