Nottingham University is reviewing its relationship with "associate" staff in the health service management centre after the sudden departure of the unit's head, Eric Caines.
Associates used by Professor Caines included his wife, Karen Caines, director of the Institute of Health Services Management, and Roy Lilley, former Homewood Trust chair, who advocates privatisation of the NHS.
The centre's new head, Robert Berry, director of the management and finance school, said he felt the unit had failed to achieve high enough standards in research. He has now written to all the centre's "associates" saying he wants to discuss their future role.
Nottingham's experience has highlighted concerns about the quality of research coming from this type of management unit and the academic priorities of the people they employ.
Professor Caines, a former health service reformer, was suspended on December 3 and an internal audit was launched after worries about Pounds 13,000 worth of payments made by the centre. He requested early retirement, with no enhancements, the following day, saying he needed to look after his sick father-in-law. A short statement delivered to the university court revealed that investigations had taken place concerning a trip to the United States and a campus flat occupied by Professor Caines.
In a separate statement, the university said Professor Caines "offered an explanation for the payments highlighted by the internal auditor but he accepted that they were capable of misinterpretation and offered and made full reparation". The statement added: "There are no outstanding issues of public accountability affecting the university."
Professor Berry said: "I felt there wasn't enough research being done so I will be doing more. Eric identified a group of people who he felt had a contribution to make in terms of speaking at the short courses he organised and bringing in the participation of the NHS research agenda. I plan to continue this work but some people will have felt their association was with Eric and will have departed." Professor Caines made use of up to 12 associates at a time.
The centre was set up in November 1993 with a Pounds 500,000 grant from Trent regional health authority and the promise of an additional Pounds 1.3 million over five years.