City University head quits

Author: By Chris Green and Lucy Hodges

Professor Malcolm Gillies, the vice chancellor of City University in London,
stepped down with immediate effect yesterday after a long running
disagreement with the council over how the university should be run.

A source at the university told The Independent that Prof Gillies ? who was
only appointed in 2007 ? had diverted money and resources into teaching at
the expense of administrative positions, which had proved unpopular with the
council.

Up to 63 redundancies in the university?s information services, human
resources and finance departments are due to be finalised at the end of this
month.

?What has happened came as a complete shock to everybody,? the source said.
?He?s literally clearing his desk today ? he?ll be out of the building come
half past five. He?s been a tremendously good thing for City, and everybody
here is very upset and furious. It seems the corporate people have won out
over the teachers.

?Our council is very much made up of business people and lawyers. Our VC was a
professor of music and a liberal arts academic, and obviously didn?t see
eye-to-eye with the council. It would appear that they wanted everything to
have a corporate, business-based approach, while he wanted to take a rather
more fluid approach.?

When staff approached him to ask about the circumstances of his resignation
yesterday, Professor Gillies is reported to have shrugged his shoulders and
said: ?This is the corporate world vis-a-vis the academic world.?

Academic staff at the university were informed of his resignation by email. A
statement issued by City later in the day said Prof Gillies and the council
had ?differing views on matters of governance?.

Prof Julius Weinberg, the deputy vice chancellor, will handle the day-to-day
running of the university until a replacement is found. Prof Gillies will
remain a professor of music at City until January next year.

The softly-spoken Australian vice chancellor was extremely popular with the
university?s academic staff, who said yesterday he had always listened to
their concerns and responded personally to their emails.

However, he had also been unafraid to make controversial decisions. One year
ago, he set up an internal staff newspaper which was independent from the
university, and was written, edited and run by students enrolled at its
highly respected school of journalism. The university?s press office was
forbidden from interfering with the publication.

John Saunders, president of the local University and College Union branch at
City, has written a letter to the acting chairman of the council, Apurv
Bagri, demanding to know the reasons for Mr Gillies? departure.

?I have said that the staff are very concerned that the loss of the vice
chancellor could have a negative impact on life at the university for staff
and students,? he said.

Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute
think-tank, said he was shocked to hear the news. ?Malcolm Gillies was one
of the most imaginative and thoughtful vice chancellors there is. I am very
sad and sorry about this.?

A spokeswoman for City said: ?I am not at liberty to discuss the details of
this matter, except to say that the final decision between the university
and Professor Gillies was mutual and amicable, with both parties putting the
interests of the university first.?

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