The Vice-Chancellor of Bath University faced calls to leave her job immediately from 71 professors who cited concerns about the “reputational crisis” surrounding her pay.
Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell announced she would leave her £468,000 a year job at the end of the academic year last week, but pressure mounted for her to go sooner.
Her immediate resignation was called for along with chief governor Thomas Sheppard, who chairs both the university council and remuneration committee.
A letter addressed to the Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Chair of Council, cited “the risk of further student demonstrations and embarrassment,” after a row that has spanned from the campus to the House of Lords.
The letter, signed by 71 academics, read: “The Vice-Chancellor has decided to step down from her post. This was the right decision.
“We urge her, however, to do so immediately, rather than in the summer of 2018.
“Otherwise, it will be difficult for the university community to come together and re-build a sense of common purpose.”
It said that Mr Sheppard “shares responsibility for the governance crisis of recent months.”
It continued: “Over recent years, the University has operated increasingly on the model of a corporate organisation.
“We need to stand back and consider how far this is appropriate to its mission, as an institution concerned with education and the public good.”
Both Dame Glynis and Mr Sheppard have responded publicly to the 71 professors, but did not address the resignation calls.
Dame Glynis said: “I believe that in writing to us you have only the best interests of the University of Bath in mind.
“The Higher Education sector as a whole is undergoing massive change, reflecting a developing political and public view on funding and regulation.
“Our university is in a process of transition.
“In that transition, my role should be and will be very limited.”
Mr Sheppard’s letter said: “I of course welcome the strong commitment to the institution you express and your desire that it should serve its students, the local community and the larger society, both nationally and internationally.
“I am in no doubt that all within the University community who have been sent this letter share this commitment. You will be aware that the Senate of the University and separately its Council have formally discussed the issues raised and have reaffirmed confidence in the Vice-Chancellor and me as Chair of Council respectively.”
The full letter from 71 academics read:
Dear Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Chair of Council,
1) As professors within the University of Bath, we have a strong commitment to the institution. We are concerned that it should serve its students, the local community and the larger society, both nationally and internationally.
Since its establishment in 1966, the University has developed a strong reputation for teaching and research, under a succession of Vice-Chancellors. This success has resulted from the efforts of the University community as a whole, working together.
We are therefore very concerned at the reputational crisis that has developed over recent months, as evidenced in the criticisms made in the HEFCE report, the loss of local MPs from membership of Court and the widespread negative publicity that the University has experienced.
2) The Vice-Chancellor has decided to step down from her post. This was the right decision. We urge her, however, to do so immediately, rather than in the summer of 2018. Otherwise, it will be difficult for the University community to come together and re-build a sense of common purpose.
We question the use of public funds for the Vice-Chancellor’s proposed ‘sabbatical’, which was awarded without reference to our standard sabbatical procedures, and risks continuing negative publicity.
3) The Chair of Council shares responsibility for the governance crisis of recent months. He should resign with immediate effect. We call on Council to exercise henceforth much greater transparency in its proceedings, and in particular to respect those members elected from the University community.
4) We welcome the proposed enquiry into governance. We expect as professors to make a vigorous and constructive contribution.
We also expect the whole University community to be involved. If the enquiry is limited to the role of Council, then we will urge Senate and Academic Assembly to examine the changes needed more generally in the management and governance of the University.
5) The reforms of the University must go well beyond the remuneration of senior managers. Over recent years, the University has operated increasingly on the model of a corporate organisation. We need to stand back and consider how far this is appropriate to its mission, as an institution concerned with education and the public good.
6) The University must take its time and not rush the process of reform. Only when reforms have been set in place, should it move on to the appointment of a new Vice-Chancellor. Good decisions are more important than quick decisions.
The transitional arrangements for leadership of the University, until a new Vice-Chancellor is appointed, should themselves be the subject of discussion between Council, Senate and the University community.
7) As a community of professors, we look forward to working with Council members and with the new Vice-Chancellor, when appointed, to re-build the reputation of the University.
8) We recognise that the University authorities are already moving to take decisions on these matters; we request confirmation that they accept and vigorously embrace the principles we have set out here.
Given that degree congregations are taking place next week, with the risk of further student demonstrations and embarrassment, we hope that this can be done urgently.