Salford v-c’s exit follows change in council chair

Upper-level turbulence hits another institution in a rough year for university leaders

December 18, 2014

A vice-chancellor who has become the latest in a series of university leaders to exit suddenly is leaving just four months after a new chair of council was appointed at the institution.

The University of Salford said on 9 December that Martin Hall would be retiring and that deputy vice-chancellor Helen Marshall would be taking over “internal line management” duties that very day.

Professor Marshall will become acting vice-chancellor on 1 January, and Professor Hall will go on leave until his retirement in June, the university said.

Salford has experienced some turbulence during Professor Hall’s tenure. In June last year, it announced plans to close almost all courses in modern languages, politics and contemporary history “to secure the future of the university” after seeing falling student demand.

The same month, the University and College Union complained that there had been 13 rounds of job cuts in two years at Salford.

The university has also been preparing for an employment tribunal brought by Adrian Graves, its former deputy vice-chancellor, who was sacked for alleged gross misconduct in June after what was reportedly a “furious bust-up” with a student at the university’s swimming pool.

The hearing had been set for 5-9 January, but the tribunal service said that it was no longer scheduled for those dates when Times Higher Education contacted it last week.

Asked if the university had now settled the claim, a Salford spokesman said: “As it is an ongoing legal matter, it would be inappropriate to comment.”

It has been a bumpy year for vice-chancellors across the sector. Among other cases, Chris Higgins stepped down as vice-chancellor of Durham University in September after Durham’s senate voted earlier in the year over whether to reduce his powers.

Wendy Purcell, the head of Plymouth University, was suspended by the board of governors in July. Although she has now returned as vice-chancellor, she no longer runs the institution.

Some sector observers believe that tensions between governing bodies and vice-chancellors are increasing as the emerging higher education market puts universities under more pressure to perform.

At Salford, Baroness Hughes of Stretford took over as chair of council on 1 August. Lady Hughes was a University of Manchester lecturer and head of its department of social policy before becoming a Labour MP. She resigned as immigration minister in 2004 after admitting she may have “unwittingly” misled people about a suspected visa scam.

Responding to THE’s query about the reason for Professor Hall’s departure, the Salford spokesman said: “Martin’s retirement was something he had been planning for and the university was happy to accept. The management team that remains in place is strong and one in which Baroness Hughes has every confidence.”

Professor Hall has been well liked by many on a personal level. He was also known as the only university leader to join the Council for the Defence of British Universities, which aims to combat marketisation in higher education.

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