UEA vice-chancellor David Richardson quits amid financial crisis

Biochemist ends nine-year tenure at Norwich institution after staff pass vote of no confidence

February 27, 2023
Source: University of East Anglia

The vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia (UEA) has resigned with immediate effect after staff indicated that they had no confidence in the leadership of the financially stricken institution.

David Richardson announced that he was leaving the Norwich-based university after 32 years, the last nine of which were spent in the top job.

Staff at UEA had grown increasingly concerned about the direction of the university, which announced earlier this year that it had built up a deficit of £13.9 million, which was expected to treble in the coming years.

Cuts to departments of between 10 per cent and 25 per cent were expected, but the local branch of the University and College Union (UCU) said it had received few details since the announcement and had not been given access to the institution’s accounts.

In an indicative vote held by the union, staff had said they had no confidence in its leadership to rescue the institution, which has struggled because of declining student numbers and the cost of maintaining its 60-year-old Brutalist campus.

In a message to staff, Professor Richardson says that UEA and the whole of the higher education sector are “facing a variety of further challenges” but that he felt there was a “genuine opportunity” for the institution to thrive under new leadership.

“I have been conscious of the need for a new vision for UEA since we began to emerge from Covid in 2021 and have deliberated whether I am the person to lead that vision or whether a new vision needs a new leader,” he writes.

“After 15 years on the executive team and nine years as vice-chancellor, I have concluded now that the time has come for me to step away so that UEA can develop a new long-term vision to take it forward beyond its 60th anniversary with new leadership.”

Professor Richardson, a bacterial biochemist, joined UEA as a lecturer in 1991 and served as its dean of the Faculty of Science, pro vice-chancellor for research and innovation, deputy vice-chancellor and vice-chancellor. He will now become an emeritus professor at UEA.

An advocate for diversity and inclusion in higher education, Professor Richardson has been a co-chair of the Race Equality Charter’s governance committee and Advance HE’s equality, diversity and inclusion committee.

Sally Howes, chair of UEA’s council, said it was “a sad day” for the university but it was a mark of Professor Richardson’s character “that he supports the handover to a new leader who can bring a fresh perspective and renewed vigour to the future vision of UEA”.

“I’m sure I speak for the whole community when we thank David for his commitment and service to UEA for these many years,” she added.

“UEA is an incredibly successful institution which delivers outstanding education to thousands of students from across the world, and globally recognised research.

“We have been open about the challenges we face, and the leadership of the university and UEA council are confident in the steps they are taking to deliver UEA’s long-term financial stability and to ensure a successful future vision and strategy for the university.”

In the short term, Christine Bovis-Cnossen, UEA’s provost and deputy vice-chancellor, will become acting vice-chancellor while the university searches for a permanent successor for Professor Richardson.


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Reader's comments (4)

No Sally, you do not speak for the while community!
Whole community!
Mismanagement and chaos save money by axing the whole management team and massively cutting down on bureaucracy. Simples.
Since when is going almost bankrupt "incredibly successful"?