UEA creates reputational guard dog role in wake of 'Climategate' report

Administrative shake-up will also see the loss of the academic division and registrar, writes John Morgan

July 15, 2010

The university at the centre of a global climate science controversy is to alter its management structures to strengthen its approach to reputation management.

The University of East Anglia plans to give its director of marketing and communications greater responsibility in the area in a role which also includes some of the duties of an academic registrar. The new role is detailed in plans for a shake-up of the UEA administration that will abolish the academic division for support services.

UEA administrators are concerned about the changes amid fears that up to 150 staff in the university's 300-strong academic division could lose their jobs. In a statement, UEA says there will be "fewer jobs" but "no figure has been identified".

UEA suffered months of negative publicity after claims that scientists from the CRU manipulated results and withheld evidence from critics to shore up the case for man-made global warming. The allegations, which have been discounted by an independent review, followed the theft of thousands of emails and documents from the CRU last year, in what became known as the "Climategate" affair.

In an internal message to UEA staff on the restructuring, the university's executive team says: "The academic division and the post of academic registrar will disappear, and Rob Evans, in his final year at UEA, will lead the project (to implement the new structure) as deputy registrar and secretary. The director of marketing and communications [Alan Preece] will retain responsibility for those two services ... (and) will assume an enhanced and strongly focused responsibility for reputation management."

The impact of Climategate on UEA's reputation was touched on in the independent review of the affair, led by Sir Muir Russell, which reported last week.

Sir Muir said, when presenting the report, that CRU scientists and UEA had "failed to recognise not only the significance of statutory requirements (of the Freedom of Information Act) but also the risk to the reputation of the university and, indeed, to the credibility of UK climate science" (see box below).

The restructuring will see support services previously delivered separately across the university provided by three new "integrated" units: recruitment and admissions; research enterprise and engagement; and learning and teaching.

"We regret the fact that the changes involved will bring uncertainty to individuals who have already made immense contributions to UEA's success," the executive team says. The university says in a statement that the changes, to be introduced in phases up to August 2011, are needed to meet cuts in public funding.

"We need to address these challenges while continuing to increase our attractiveness to potential students, improve our research performance and intensify our role in developing enterprise in the city and region. Realigning our support services allows us to do this in a controlled and measured way."

john.morgan@tsleducation.com.

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