With top posts vacant, staff ask ‘why’ and ‘what next?’

Sudden loss of v-c and finance director has Manchester academics asking questions about the future. Hannah Fearn writes

January 20, 2010

Academics at the University of Manchester are seeking information about the future leadership of the institution as two senior posts lie vacant.

Alan Gilbert’s retirement as vice-chancellor as a result of ill-health was announced to staff last week.

The university is also searching for a new finance director after Marianne McKenzie resigned from the post last month.

A statement announcing Ms McKenzie’s resignation on the university’s website says: “Marianne McKenzie is leaving her position as director of finance at the University of Manchester after three years in which she has played a major part in strengthening the university’s financial position. The university reported a higher than expected operating surplus of £16.8 million for the financial year that ended 31 July 2009.”

No further details have been disclosed. The university told Times Higher Education that it had made “appropriate arrangements for the interim management and leadership” of the finance department.

A spokesman for the local branch of the University and College Union said its members were “concerned to learn about the departure of the finance director and in particular the failure of the university to provide us with any explanation of why this happened so suddenly.

“This issue – and indeed the broader question of a change of leadership of the university in the near future – is extremely important, not least in the context of the massive financial threat currently facing the higher education sector.”

The UCU would “resist vigorously any attempt by any incoming senior management to bow down to government policy of draconian cuts”, the spokesman added. “Professor Gilbert introduced a no compulsory redundancy policy, and the union will fight every inch of the way to keep it,” he said.

Professor Gilbert will retire as vice-chancellor at the end of the academic year after six years in post. The university said a search for his replacement would begin immediately.

Dame Nancy Rothwell, deputy president and deputy vice-chancellor, will serve as acting head during the recruitment process.

hannah.fearn@tsleducation.com

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