Suspended Swansea v-c attacks ‘negligently flawed’ investigation

Richard Davies accuses registrar of attempting to ‘seize the position of vice-chancellor’

January 8, 2019
Swansea University sign

The suspended head of Swansea University has accused his registrar of attempting to “seize the position of vice-chancellor” on the basis of a “negligently flawed investigation”.

In a 10-page grievance letter to the university council leaked to WalesOnline, Richard Davies launched a lengthy criticism of the two men who he claims orchestrated his suspension at the end of November.

No reasons have been given by Swansea so far for the suspension of Professor Davies, who was due to retire at the end of the academic year.

Marc Clement, dean of the university’s management school, and two other staff members, were also suspended at the same time, which has seen a £200 million project to develop Llanelli Wellness Village put on hold as a result.

In his letter, Professor Davies says that the project takes up 75 per cent of the “column centimetres” in the suspension letter that he received, with the rest detailing allegations that he “failed to assure appropriate due diligence, governance and systems of control around major projects and commercial activities of the university”, WalesOnline reported.

However, his strongest criticisms are reserved for Andrew Rhodes, the university’s registrar and now acting vice-chancellor, and businessman Sir Roger Jones, who chairs the university council.

Professor Davies, who has led the university for 15 years, claims Mr Rhodes was trying to “seize the position of vice-chancellor” and says that the council, chaired by Sir Roger, has been “negligent in permitting this manifestly unfair concentration of power in the hands of one person”.

In a response to WalesOnline, a spokeswoman for Swansea University said that “the suspensions were made following a through and wide-reaching internal investigation”. She added that “it would not be appropriate to comment in detail at this time” because the inquiry was ongoing “but the university has at all times acted fully in accordance with its own ordinances, and offered appropriate support to Professor Davies”.

Professor Davies questioned why the decision to suspend him – which, he said, was “unprecedented” for a research-intensive UK university – had been taken before consulting with the university council.

“Given my position, the authority of the council should have been sought prior to any decision being made,” he said, adding that “it cannot be right that a more junior university employee [Mr Rhodes] can of their own volition suspend the vice-chancellor without first accounting to the council and seeking their authority and advice”.

The failure to consult the council before triggering the suspension should also be considered in light of “massive reputational and financial consequences for the university”, stating that the “decision to suspend must be taken as a last resort and should not be an automatic decision should an allegation be raised against an individual. That is exactly what has happened here.”

Professor Davies also details the strong feeling of social isolation that he has experienced as a result of conditions attached to his suspension, saying that he was escorted off the campus and stripped of his mobile phone, email account and computer. He was also barred from accessing his “family home”, Danver House, without supervision and told he “must not make any contact with university officers, employees, or academic staff by any means”.

“Following 15 years in Swansea devoted to the university, almost all my friendships and contacts would fall into those categories,” he said.

jack.grove@timeshighereducation.com

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