Review lambasts lack of leadership at Lampeter

July 31, 2008

"Very real problems of leadership and management" have been highlighted in a report into the University of Wales, Lampeter, commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

A draft report on the university concludes: "There is no coherent, well-expressed, widely accepted strategy, either agreed or being pursued within the institution ... there is no clear vision of what UWL should work to become which is shared by the senior management team, council and academics."

According to a University and College Union source, the final report recommends that an interim management team be put in place and that the university should be merged with another institution if the new management does not make swift improvements.

UWL vice-chancellor Robert Pearce has been on sick leave since last week and finance director Gwyndaf Tobias is in charge of the institution. Pro vice-chancellor Barry Burnham, who had been second in command, has stepped down from this role.

The draft report highlights a need for "strong leadership to connect the various factions and interests and align them behind a common purpose", but says current senior management is too weak to do this.

"There has been a failure of leadership to bring and correct disconnections between the senior management team and both academic staff and lay members of council," the report says. In addition, UWL strategy was "not obviously aligned with the economic and development aspirations of the Central and Welsh Assembly Governments".

The review, carried out for the HEFCW by external consultants HWCA, also found "a general lack of HR support" at Lampeter, including a lack of formal appraisals for academics and a high rate of staff disputes.

A university spokeswoman said there were "a number of factual inaccuracies" in the draft document.

"Detailed discussions with the funding council will take place over the coming months," she said. "The pro vice-chancellor has resigned from this position from the end of July, the normal time of year for such offices to change. The university is unable to comment further on individual personnel issues."

Update: 11am, 31 July

A source within the university said: “Since the pro vice-chancellor has resigned, Gwyndaf Tobias, as director of finance, is the most senior person in the university, and there is no one to perform the functions of a vice-chancellor.”

The university’s council set up a subcommittee of four council members this week to take over some of these functions, using advice from the law firm Eversheds on what powers such a subcommittee might exercise.

“We not only have no effective vice-chancellor and no pro vice-chancellor, we also have no visitor. The whole institution is in meltdown,” the source said.

The consultants said that they had difficulty identifying “any [high-level management processes] in UWL which are working well”. They could find no evidence of “serious market analysis” in any area of UWL activity.

The team said it was not satisfied that the university was fully compliant with equality legislation and reported that “repeated requests, almost to the point of embarrassment, to see the university’s health and safety policy precipitated an urgently prepared hard copy at the very end of our review”.

The UCU branch at Lampeter cited a dispute rate of one dispute per ten staff per year, compared with a rate among comparable higher-education institutions of one dispute per 200 staff per year. The union is threatening strike action over plans for compulsory redundancies. The council approved two redundancies at its meeting on 29 July.

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