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Vice Chancellor contemplates her future

Vice Chancellor April McMahon
Vice Chancellor April McMahon

THE EMBATTLED head of Aberystwyth university may be forced out, journalists at The Herald’s partner organisation, The Eye, have revealed.

As storm clouds gather over Vice Chancellor April McMahon, sources have confirmed to us that she could be leaving the institution, which has plunged down university rankings, by the end of the year.

Dr McMahon was paid £228,000 for 2012/13, after a pay rise award of 9.57 per cent, butpensioncontributions took the figure to £252,000.

Officials at the university insist this salary, which is 60 per cent higher than that of the Prime Minister David Cameron, is “performance-related”.

Yet Aberystwyth have dropped several places in key performance tables, and a plunge in student applications has led to a severe financial crisis, even as they have opened a new campus on the tropical island of Mauritius.

The university have fallen four places to 110 (out of 119) in The 2016 Guardian University league table.

In May last year Aberystwyth dropped 17 places to 87 in The Complete University Guide.

In The Times and The Sunday Times guide they fell 11 places to 93.

A damaging profile of the university stated: “Aberystwyth has set itself the goal of becoming one of the top 30 universities in the UK and the top 250 in the world by 2017.

“It is a tall order where The Times and The Sunday Times league table is concerned, with the university presently in danger of falling out of our top 100, dropping 11 places this year after last year’s 35-place fall.”

Meanwhile a petition demanding the resignation of Dr McMahon was started by angry students who are worried about their degrees.

It now has almost 2,000 signatories, and declares: “Staff work in what they often describe as a ‘culture of fear’.

“Students came to Aberystwyth when it was a top 50 University and will leave with a degree from an institution flailing at the bottom of the league tables.”

The revelation about Dr McMahon is set against a backdrop of controversy.

Just over two years ago dozens of protesters stopped traffic on a road at the entrance to the university, in support of two staff members who had been suspended.

The director of the university’s arts centre Alan Hewson and the operations manager, Auriel Martin, had been suspended from their jobs since February.

FIGURES

Aberystwyth have also been beset by financial trouble caused by falling rolls.

They have seen their first year student-enrollment figures drop by almost a quarter since 2011.

Their director of finance, Peter Curran, said: “The financial implications of under-recruitment have never been so significant”

It is obvious that deep dissatisfaction exists, after the university dropped in educational rankings and a financial crisis has hit.

But officials remain defiant, saying: “We would rather be higher in the league tables – yes, and we will be; but they are really only a small part of the story.

“We are a university built on a proud tradition of extending a university education to all who are able to benefit from it, committed to excellent teaching informed by high-quality research, and passionate about the success of our students.

“We are delivering outstanding results and look forward to another year of high achievement for students and staff.”

Despite the growing controversy, the university have announced the establishment of a new campus on the luxury holiday island of Mauritius, and the appointment of David Poynton as founding dean.

Aberystwyth say he will be responsible “for the establishment, operation and development of the campus as well as its academic portfolio and engagement with the Mauritian and international communities”.

Perhaps the academic community may now be satisfied once Dr McMahon moves on.

Or perhaps not.

[To read more quality investigative journalism from around Wales visit http://walespolitico.uk/waleseye/ ]

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Dayne Stone

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