'Breakdown in confidence' at Plymouth University

Plymouth University
Image caption 'Fractured' relationships put Plymouth University 'in peril', the report said

A "breakdown in confidence" and "fractured" relationships put the governance of a university "in peril", according to a report.

Plymouth University faced turmoil in 2014 when a boardroom feud left it without a vice-chancellor or chairman.

The Good Governance Institute has made 15 recommendations for change at the university in a scathing review.

The university said it had been a "challenging time" and the review marked the "turning of a corner".

Vice-chancellor Prof Wendy Purcell was suspended from her £288,000-a-year post last July but later brought back into the university in a new role.

Image copyright Plymouth University
Image caption Vice-chancellor Wendy Purcell was brought back into the university in a new role

'Golden triangle'

The independent experts who carried out the review from November to February found the process by which Prof Purcell was investigated was "not fit for purpose".

William Taylor, a retired judge, resigned from the post of chairman in September following claims of sexual harassment, which he has "categorically" denied.

The review said a "golden triangle" of the chairman, vice-chancellor and university secretary/clerk to the board was "at the heart" of effective governance.

It said: "If one side is fractured, good governance is endangered; if two sides are fractured, governance is in peril."

Image caption Plymouth University chairman of governors William Taylor resigned in September 2014

'Challenging time'

The report said "trust and confidence issues" between the board of governors, the vice-chancellor and the executive were "mirrored by a breakdown in confidence" on the part of staff.

In response to the report, Prof David Coslett, interim vice-chancellor, said: "The actions we are taking forward following our review of governance mark the turning of a corner for the university.

"It has been a challenging time for staff and we are emerging even stronger, propelled by the university's academic excellence, the talent of our students and rigorous management processes."

The report said its recommendations had "resonance" with the wider higher education sector.

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