Whistleblowers: Pimlott row sparks Goldsmiths review

November 1, 2002

'Senior sources at the college said this week that the committee would not have been set up had it not been for concerns about Professor Pimlott's performance'

Governors are reviewing the management of Goldsmiths College. Sources said that one of the reasons for this was the recent controversy over the reappointment of warden Ben Pimlott, following a vote of no-confidence in him by staff.

A leaked memo seen by The THES reveals that Sir Robert Balchin, deputy chair of the governing council, has been asked to chair a committee "to review the college's current management structures and lines of communication". The committee will make recommendations to council in March next year. Senior sources at the college said this week that the committee would not have been set up had it not been for concerns about Professor Pimlott's performance.

Sir Robert, the memo explains, is initially seeking confidential written views about "current management structures", "current decision-making structures and processes" and "communication of decisions".

The memo says: "This is an opportunity to highlight problems and concerns", but it adds: "It would also be extremely useful in helping the committee make useful recommendations if areas of good practice could be highlighted and positive ideas for improvements made."

In June, members of the Association of University Teachers at the college voted 82 to 73 in favour of a motion of no confidence in Professor Pimlott, who is the high-profile biographer of the Queen.

The union's motion said he had "failed to provide the leadership" that Goldsmiths needed and "to engage in meaningful consultation", that he had "ignored staff concerns" and had "managed autocratically".

The THES reported in August that the governing council had awarded Professor Pimlott a second five-year term as warden against the recommendation of the special committee it had set up to review his position as he reached the end of his first term of office. The reappointment committee, which included Sir Robert and three academics elected by Goldsmiths staff, had recommended that Professor Pimlott should be reappointed for just one year, instead of the usual five, to allow for a further review of his position amid considerable staff discontent.

It is understood that four members of the nine-strong committee had wanted to reject his reappointment.

A spokeswoman for Goldsmiths said it was "rubbish" that the management review committee had been set up in response to criticism of Professor Pimlott specifically. She said it was a fully open consultation over broad management structures across the board. Sir Robert told The THES : "It is far too early for me to comment."

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