Who needs court? asks Cardiff University

Consultation questions need for the body after it blocked the appointment of Griff Rhys Jones as chancellor

November 20, 2014

Cardiff University has questioned the future of its court, and the body’s role in the selection of the chancellor, six months after it blocked the appointment of Griff Rhys Jones to the ceremonial post.

A consultation has been launched that asks: “Given that council is the governing body of the university, is there a continuing role for the court?”

It also asks if future chancellors should continue to be appointed by the court on the recommendation of the council, or whether the final choice should lie with the council – either acting alone or after a nominations process carried out with court representation.

It was in April that Cardiff suffered the embarrassment of being forced to call off the announcement of Mr Rhys Jones as chancellor after the court refused to ratify the comedian’s selection by the council.

By this time – about half an hour before the appointment was due to be made public – the university had already distributed photographs of Mr Rhys Jones in the chancellor’s robes to the media.

It was claimed that the council had not indicated that the serving chancellor, Nobel prizewinning scientist Sir Martin Evans, was eligible for reappointment. Mr Rhys Jones withdrew from consideration, and Sir Martin embarked on a second term.

Brian Ford, a tutor in the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education and a member of the court, has written to Cardiff vice-chancellor Colin Riordan saying he is “not the only person to be perplexed” by the consultation.

“It seems to call into question the very existence of court,” writes Professor Ford. “Yet, as recent events have shown, it is clear that it is only the existence of the university court that ensures that the governance of Cardiff is properly monitored.”

The consultation asks about the term of office of the chancellor and whether a second term should be permitted.

A Cardiff spokeswoman said the court “was advised that it would be consulted” as part of the process, with a recent survey of its 220 members used to gather views. She also insisted that there were “no plans” to abolish the court.


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