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University accused of 'jobs for boys' over new principal

RGU has been criticised over the way is has appointed its new principal.

RGU: Current principal will resign this month (file pic).
RGU: Current principal will resign this month (file pic). RGU

A Scottish university has been accused of taking a "jobs for boys" approach to appointing its new principal.

Robert Gordon University head Ferdinand von Prondzynski announced this week that he would step down following a high-profile investigation into his business dealings.

It found von Prondzynski failed to declare his connection to a man appointed as one of RGU's four vice-principals, but had not deliberately concealed anything.

He will be replaced by deputy principal John Harper at the end of the month.

His appointment has led the University and College Union (UCU) to accuse RGU of "shoe-horning" in a replacement without a proper recruitment process.

UCU Scotland's Mary Senior said: "It is disappointing to learn of professor von Prondzynski's resignation.

"While we've not agreed on everything, particularly at a local level, he has made a significant contribution to higher education in Scotland.

"His review of higher education governance led to new legislation that should improve transparency in our universities.

"It is ironic that while he made such a huge contribution to improving university governance, his former university is shoe-horning in his replacement without any recruitment process.

"It is particularly galling to see this jobs for the boys approach at a time when there is considerable debate about the need for more diversity in senior positions in universities and society at large."

'We are disappointed that UCU continues to misrepresent the action that the board of governors has taken.'
RGU spokeswoman

UCU claimed RGU had not followed higher education rules by appointing Mr Harper without consultation.

However, the university said that was untrue because his appointment is not permanent.

A spokeswoman said: "We are disappointed that UCU continues to misrepresent the action that the board of governors has taken. The board acted decisively to stabilise what was a difficult situation for the university. 

"The board and professor Harper mutually agreed a two year fixed-term appointment to give him time to deliver the stability and move the university forward with its ambitious plans in teaching and research.

"Professor Harper is a popular and well respected leader and his appointment has been widely welcomed by the university community."

It emerged following Gordon McConnell's appointment as RGU vice-principal that he had been the co-director of a company with the university's principal.

Mike Fleming, chairman of RGU's board of governors, said the last few months had been a "testing time" for the university.

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