Manchester Metropolitan University decided on a new vice-chancellor earlier this year, only for its governors to reject the chosen candidate – prompting the chair of governors to depart.
Manchester Met – the largest campus-based university in the UK with a total student population of 37,000 – had initially announced that its current vice-chancellor, John Brooks, would retire in December this year. But following the aborted attempt to recruit a replacement, he will stay on until June 2015.
Senior sector figures described it as unprecedented to their knowledge for a board of governors to reject a chosen vice-chancellor.
The Manchester Met episode follows a number of sudden departures for vice-chancellors elsewhere, suggesting that the new, more competitive higher education system may be leading governing bodies to subject university leaders to greater scrutiny.
Malcolm Edge, who was appointed Manchester Met’s chair of governors in June 2013, is thought to have been part of an appointment committee that selected a candidate to be vice-chancellor.
When that choice was rejected by the university’s board of governors, Mr Edge, a former vice-chairman of KPMG in the UK, is understood to have felt that he could no longer count on the confidence of the board and left, having been in the post about a year.
Vanda Murray, former deputy chair of governors, has stepped up to become chair. Ms Murray was formerly chief executive of support services group Blick.
Manchester Met started a fresh recruitment process in July, with an appointment expected in the autumn.
It is not known why the governors rejected the selected candidate for the vice-chancellor’s job. Manchester Met declined to offer any comment on the situation.
Other recent governance controversies in the sector include events at Plymouth University, where the vice-chancellor, Wendy Purcell, was suspended by the governors in July.
That has sparked a bitter battle within the university, and the Plymouth chair of governors, William Taylor, has now stood aside pending the outcome of an investigation into sexual harassment allegations, which he denies.