Veterans of conflict join London Met as institution plans course correction

Two executives who were separately involved in two of the highest-profile university management disputes in recent years have joined London Metropolitan University.

March 10, 2011

Paul Bowler, former deputy vice-chancellor at the University of Gloucestershire, has been appointed London Met's deputy chief executive, while Peter McCaffery, former vice-chancellor of the University of Cumbria, is to become its deputy vice-chancellor. They worked for only short stints at the two financially troubled institutions.

In 2009, Mr Bowler, a former investment banker, resigned from Gloucestershire shortly after being suspended and just five months after joining the institution.

In October 2010, he told a tribunal that when Patricia Broadfoot, vice-chancellor of Gloucestershire at the time, had asked him whether he thought she should resign, he had told her she should.

Meanwhile, Professor McCaffery left his post as head of Cumbria in May 2010 after less than a year in the role. Reportedly he felt that the job was "mis-sold" to him as he had not been fully informed about the institution's dire finances.

The appointments come as London Met prepares for a substantial cut in the number of courses it offers from 2012-13.

The institution is currently paying back tens of millions of pounds to the Higher Education Funding Council for England after previous financial mismanagement.

The debts come on top of government cuts to the teaching budget of at least 60 per cent.

London Met's University and College Union branch called the appointments of Mr Bowler and Professor McCaffery "surprising".

"We're slightly concerned about how London Met might be perceived by the wider higher education community given the recent controversies in their past," a UCU spokesman said.

But Malcolm Gillies, vice-chancellor of London Met, said the appointments were not so surprising when the skills and experience of the pair were taken into account.

Mr Bowler and Professor McCaffery had experience of the issues that now face London Met, such as "financial pressures, major curriculum reform and real estate rationalisation ... and understand institutions that have been through challenging times", he said.

Mr Bowler described himself as "a straightforward business person" and said he was optimistic about London Met's future.

He was managing director of Brunel University from 2003 to 2006 when it was led by Steven Schwartz. He followed Professor Schwartz to Macquarie University, Sydney, where he was deputy vice-chancellor, chief operating officer and registrar from 2006 to 2009.

At Gloucestershire, he oversaw a programme of redundancies and also wrote a report on its Faculty of Education, Humanities and Sciences that found that it had overstated its income for 2009-10 by £1.5 million.

Professor McCaffery is author of The Higher Education Manager's Handbook: Effective Leadership and Management in Universities and Colleges (2004). He served as pro vice-chancellor at London South Bank University from 2004 to 2009.

A draft report on London Met's review of undergraduate education was issued on 4 March. It sets out plans to "refocus and rationalise" the university's courses. Professor Gillies has highlighted the fact that 80 per cent of the university's students are enrolled in just 80 of the approximately 200 courses it offers. He said the plans were "pretty bold".

"London Met is expecting that there will be quite a number of courses, especially those with smaller numbers, that we might not be offering to new students after 2012-13," he said.

It also plans to adopt a policy of offering a minimum of 30 weeks per year of teaching on undergraduate courses.

Before joining London Met, Professor Gillies was head of City University London. He stepped down in July 2009 after governance disagreements with its council.

rebecca.attwood@tsleducation.com.

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