York head falls foul of governors

July 10, 1998

The principal of University College of Ripon and York St John is to leave suddenly after governors froze his plans to restructure. A governors' meeting this week confirmed that he would leave next month.

Robin Butlin's sweeping proposals would have involved the removal of two of the college's four deans and the head of academic affairs. But Natfhe said an internal staff survey, commissioned by governors, showed strong resistance, and the plans have now been put on hold.

Professor Butlin, who said his legal situation was still "fluid", would not comment. But it is understood that he fell out with governors over the future role of the college. The restructuring plans have been frozen for a year, and have not been withdrawn formally, but sources believe they will "never see the light of day".

The eleventh-hour intervention has come too late to prevent the departure of two senior staff. Former director of academic affairs, David Langford, has taken a post at the University of Westminster, and Geoff Stokes, formerly a dean, is now at the College of St Mark and St John, Plymouth.

Mr Stokes declined to comment, and Mr Langford was unavailable, as The THES went to press, but sources at the college said the men were caught up in a disagreement about Ripon and York's future direction.

Alan John, branch secretary of lecturers' union Natfhe, said discussions over the college's future, as in other institutions, had been a "microcosm of the Dearing report's 'teaching versus research' debate". The principal, it is understood, was determined to develop the college's research base, while the majority of staff were more concerned to develop the college's traditional teaching excellence.

Professor Butlin, who joined the college from Loughborough University, was trying "to turn the college into an old university", said a source.

Staff pointed to a recent Natfhe dispute over the criteria for promoting staff, almost 18 months ago, when Professor Butlin argued that achievement in research should be the main criterion for promotion. Natfhe lobbying ensured that teaching excellence was also part of the selection criteria.

Natfhe's Mr John, said: "We do not have any misgivings about what the governors have done so far."

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