Speculation rife over UEL v-c departure

Staff perplexed as Martin Everett put on 'indefinite leave' without explanation, says Melanie Newman

July 17, 2008

Mystery surrounds the departure of the University of East London vice-chancellor on "indefinite leave" after 15 months in post.

The university told Times Higher Education last week that Martin Everett had gone on "indefinite leave" with immediate effect. But it has since declined to provide any further details to staff or the public.

Senior management below executive level are understood to be as much in the dark as lecturers, and the University and College Union has made an appeal for more information.

Professor Everett told Times Higher Education that he had faced no allegations of misconduct, but declined to add to the comment.

He joined UEL in April 2007 from the University of Westminster, where he was pro vice-chancellor. He is a mathematician who is well known in the field of social network analysis.

The lack of information about his departure has led to considerable speculation. A senior source from outside the university questioned his standing within the East London business community and suggested that he was too inexperienced for the role.

But a former colleague at the University of Westminster pointed out that Professor Everett had been director of research and industrial relations at Westminster, as well as provost of the Marylebone campus, where he had been responsible for managing all teaching, research and resources on the site.

He was also shortlisted for the vice-chancellorship at Westminster, so he must have "had the right sort of characteristics", the former colleague said.

Professor Everett has worked as a consultant for the Home Office, the Ministry of Defence and Unesco.

Susan Price, UEL's deputy vice-chancellor, has been appointed acting vice-chancellor in his absence. She had applied for the UEL vice-chancellor's job when it became vacant in 2006 and was shortlisted for the role. She had been a popular choice for the post and had much support among staff and deans, it is understood.

Times Higher Education understands that staff have expressed concerns about possible procedural irregularities in relation to last week's events.

Staff governors were excluded from a governors' meeting on 8 July, after which they were informed of Professor Everett's departure. They have questioned chairman of governors Jim McKenna's right to make decisions about the vice-chancellor without including them.

The university's articles of governance state that, in the event that the chairman or deputy chairman of the board of governors "considers that it may be appropriate for the board to dismiss" the vice-chancellor, the matter has to be referred to "a special committee of the board".

Times Higher Education asked the university whether the chairman had taken steps to set up a special committee but it declined to answer.

On 11 July, an IT manager sent an e-mail to the university's IT director Tony Wright to say that he had "disabled Martin Everett's network account (and) added his account to the graveyard group". One source interpreted this as meaning that Professor Everett would "not be coming back".

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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