Report backs firing

March 6, 1998

John Sizer, chief executive of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, has strongly condemned Stan Mason, former principal of Glasgow Caledonian University, for abusing his authority and misusing public funds.

Professor Sizer's report, following a nine-month investigation, remains unpublished but The THES has obtained findings released to staff and students.

It says the university court's move last September to fire Dr Mason for gross misconduct was decisive and appropriate. It also criticises arrangements for the university's governance and management as "poorly drafted", "ill defined" and "showing some significant weaknesses".

Professor Sizer found that Dr Mason, who had a Pounds 123,000 salary, had improperly accepted two "prestige cars" and charged garaging fees for a vehicle that the court intended to be a pool car. He and other senior staff had unjustifiably travelled business class with their spouses to the Far East.

The court met yesterday to consider the report, which concludes that at times it failed in its duty "to oversee and monitor the executive". Professor Sizer said the limit and extent of the principal's delegated authority is unclear, as is the mechanism for reporting to court on exercising that authority.

The report says that the university is in good financial health and that the investigation did not reveal any material loss of funds. But Professor Sizer has told the university to recover a proportion of the expenses for the Far East trip and Dr Mason's Pounds 2,400 garage fees. The university must also repay SHEFC for an early retirement package it gave former personnel officer Brian Fraser, around Pounds 35,000, and Pounds 31,000 in bonus payments to staff in its subsidiary bulk solids handling company, which is financially weak.

Dr Mason's sons, Andrew and David, work in the company but Professor Sizer said there was not enough evidence to show allegations of nepotism were justified. In the interests of natural justice, the university should undertake an independent review of the posts.

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