UEL left rudderless after v-c and two senior managers resign

East London institution is mired in difficulty as leadership disintegrates

May 9, 2013

Two pro vice-chancellors at the University of East London left the institution within a month, it has emerged, adding to the departure on health grounds of the vice-chancellor, Patrick McGhee.

Professor McGhee - who returned to Twitter this week thanking well-wishers for their messages of support - left his job suddenly in January owing to ill health.

However, Times Higher Education has learned that both UEL’s pro vice- chancellor, international, John Shaw, and pro vice-chancellor and director of finance, Nirmal Borkhataria, have also left the institution.

The departures, which UEL says were independent resignations, took place between the end of December 2012 and the end of January 2013.

The changes came to light as further information emerged about the internal process followed by UEL in the setting up of its Cyprus campus, which, as THE revealed in April, was forced to close after recruiting just 17 students in its first six months.

The campus required potential funding from UEL of up to €1.5 million (£1. million), according to the minutes of a governors’ meeting in July 2011.

UEL’s governors voiced concern about the Cyprus project at subsequent meetings. Minutes from a meeting on 8 May 2012 state: “To the best of the knowledge and belief of some governors present, completion of the necessary due diligence had not been demonstrated.”

At a meeting on 3 July that year, an update on the Cyprus project delivered by Mr Shaw and Mr Borkhataria included a plan to establish a joint venture company to enable the campus to start operating in September 2012.

The minutes state that “the board sought an assurance from the executive that all the necessary financial due diligence had been properly carried out…On behalf of the executive…[Mr Borkhataria] informed governors that he was satisfied that all reasonable due diligence had been completed.”

The minutes outline the membership of a senior group of managers to whom decision-making powers about the campus would be granted. They state: “In view of the assurances given to the board by the executive, the board delegated the final decision to approve the project to the group listed…once they were satisfied that all remaining outstanding issues had been satisfactorily resolved.”

At a meeting on 23 October last year, the governors agreed on the wording of that minute about the delegation of the final decision, after deciding that a previous wording should be “deleted and replaced”.

A UEL spokesman said Mr Shaw had informed the university “that he wished to leave UEL in order to pursue other opportunities”.

Asked if international problems were the cause of the departures, the spokesman said: “The departures cited were independent decisions taken by the respective individuals - all of whom made their reasons known publicly at the time.”

Asked why the minutes from a governors’ meeting that took place early this year have not been published, the spokesman said: “A special meeting was held in January following the resignations of senior staff. The minutes of this meeting contain substantial personal information, and have therefore been treated as confidential.”

UEL is not the only university to have encountered problems in Cyprus. The University of Central Lancashire’s campus on the island, built inside a UN buffer zone, is currently hosting just 140 students in its first year of operation. Uclan says it plans to move “towards 5,000” within five years.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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