Wendy Purcell is still paid top salary

FoI request reveals former vice-chancellor receives £250,000 from Plymouth University

April 2, 2015

Source: Alamy

Steady state: Wendy Purcell’s role includes “reassuring students that the university is an excellent place to study”

Wendy Purcell, the former vice-chancellor of Plymouth University, remains on the £250,000 salary that she enjoyed in the role, despite moving to a new job as president and no longer running the institution.

Professor Purcell left her role as vice-chancellor in January, two months after she returned to work following a major dispute with Plymouth and its former chair of governors, William Taylor.

But the university has confirmed that she remains on the £250,000 salary that she received as vice-chancellor, in its response to a Freedom of Information request from retired academic Paul Watkins. The university has also disclosed details of her responsibilities as president, including bringing “distinction to the university”.

Plymouth has previously stated that David Coslett, interim vice-chancellor, has “overall responsibility for the running of the university”.

The Plymouth saga began in July 2014 when Mr Taylor suspended Professor Purcell. Subsequently, allegations emerged claiming that he had sexually harassed female students and members of staff. Mr Taylor, who denies the allegations, later stepped down from his role.

Local media have reported that he received a “payout” after the boardroom dispute. A Plymouth spokesman said: “The university does not comment on rumour or speculation.”

The case against Professor Purcell has never been disclosed, but was thought to include allegations about her spending and a complaint about her management style by a senior member of staff.

In its response to Dr Watkins on the president’s responsibilities, Plymouth says that Professor Purcell’s contract as vice-chancellor and chief executive “was amended by mutual agreement in November 2014”.

The university continues that the president “will work in collaboration and partnership with and as directed by the chairman of the board of governors to bring distinction to the university, enhance its reputation and drive it forward and help reassure staff and students that the university is an excellent place to work and study”. Among other duties are to advise the chairman on “strategic context” and to attend “external presentations and events” as well as “regional/national committees/groups”, the university says.

Asked for a comment on Professor Purcell’s salary as president, a Plymouth spokesman said: “It is not appropriate for the university to comment on the details of individual salaries.”

After the sexual harassment allegations against Mr Taylor, the university asked Simon Cheetham, a barrister, to carry out an inquiry into the claims. The Plymouth Herald says that its appeal against the refusal of the university to release the inquiry report under the Freedom of Information Act has been rejected by the Information Commissioner’s Office, meaning that the report is likely to remain secret.

Meanwhile, two senior departures from Plymouth have been announced. Julian Beer, former pro vice-chancellor, has left for Birmingham City University, where he is pro vice-chancellor of research, enterprise and business engagement. And Maureen Powers, the dean of students, has resigned and was due to leave at the end of the spring term.

john.morgan@tesglobal.com

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Reader's comments (1)

This is so obviously wrong and such a criminal waste of public money that we as a sector will be punished for this. For the good of the sector Professor Purcell should resign her sinecure, either fight for her old job or disappear gracefully. To take £250K a year as a vocal suppressor is doing great harm, undermines her stature and is destroying her reputation. I would plead with her to think about her and Plymouth's legacy. As for Judge Taylor, this is also a travesty. Is he is guilty of sexual harassment, is he guilty of mildly inappropriate behaviour or is he an innocent caught up in the cross fire of employment lawyers. If the first two he should have gone but with a different censure. What is not acceptable is the fact his reputation is besmirched with no formal censure. He should hand back his payout, fight to clear his name or make an apology to his victims. If he an innocent victim in all this, then lessons need to be learned. It should not escape our notice that the people who forced out the two protagonists remain in post. Perhaps both are guilty, if so why was it allowed to go on for so long? If only is guilty, then the other has been treated disgracefully.

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