Tuesday, 8 February 2011
Mystery in Academia
The mystery deepens within Dundee's academia land the past few days.
The photograph is of the 'modern' Abertay University in Dundee (not to be confused with the much larger and ancient University of Dundee which is internationally renowned for teaching and research). Abertay replaces the highly respected Dundee Institute of Technology which was founded in 1888 as Dundee College of Technology and it was recognised as an 'industrial university' by the Scottish Office as early as 1902 and gained independent degree-giving authority in the 1970s.
As the 'Tech' the old building provided many with their further education and much of the valued classes were taken in the student's own time outside of work. Like many technical colleges throughout Scotland between the 1950s and 90s, thousands could be seen rushing through cities weekday evenings, clutching well worn satchels and wearing a determined grimace. They understood education was their way up the ladder in any profession and appreciated having such a quality institution in their city.
However, the Tech in Dundee is no longer. In 1994 the 'powers that be' saw money floating in front of their eyes and opted to change to university status.
Professor Bernard King (pictured above) was principal of the Tech for two years prior to the creation of Abertay. He had moved to Dundee from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen where he was Assistant Principal and Dean of Faculty of Health and Food. Last week Prof. King was suspended from his £220,000 post by the university court. The reasons have not been disclosed, but it is known that the suspension has cost him his place as the spokesman for Scotland's higher education institutions. It is believed this is the first time a principal of a Scottish university has been suspended.
Rumour abounds of course and many say the move was because there were concerns over the future direction of the university. One university source claimed some leading figures were keen for Prof. King to retire, but he had been reluctant to do so. One retired lecturer likened Prof. King's management style to 'an absolute monarchy'.
But the mystery deepens. During the reporting of Prof. King's suspension it was discovered the Prof. had suspended his Vice-Chancellor Professor Nicholas Terry last month. No reason has been made public. In fact, the word on the street is that the staff didn't know the VP had been suspended until last week when they received an email informing them the Chancellor had been suspended.
Abertay university is now in the hands of temporary management. There is to be an independent investigation into the issue which provoked the suspension.
Two high profile academics suspended from their highly paid posts in one small, average university and no explanation given to the public who pay their vast salaries.
Dundee never needed two universities. The Institute of Technology should never have been allowed to change to university status because the city lost a very valuable vocational education facility. Abertay has never filled that gap and because of that thousands of young people have been denied the pleasure of learning the practical skills needed by tradesmen and others every day. Prof. King preferred to concentrate on making Abertay the first university to offer a Computer Games degree and ignored the need for practical technical courses.
It's the talk of Dundee's steamies right enough.