Scots uni­ver­sity urged to probe se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions

Ed­u­ca­tion: In­ves­ti­ga­tion to es­tab­lish whether busi­ness link with new vice-prin­ci­pal de­clared

The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire) - - LOCAL NEWS - BY CALUM ROSS

The prin­ci­pal of Robert Gor­don Uni­ver­sity says he is “fully con­fi­dent” an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the ap­point­ment of his busi­ness as­so­ciate to a key role will be “fair and im­par­tial”.

In a mes­sage to staff last night, Pro­fes­sor Fer­di­nand von Prondzyn­ski said he was “en­tirely happy” with an in­quiry be­ing launched fol­low­ing a whistle­blower’s com­plaint con­cern­ing the re­cent recruitment of vice-prin­ci­pal Gor­don McCon­nell.

Yes­ter­day’s Press and Jour­nal re­vealed an in­ves­ti­ga­tion panel was be­ing set up to probe the con­cerns, af­ter it emerged Pro­fes­sor McCon­nell and the RGU prin­ci­pal are the only di­rec­tors of a com­pany in­volved in the own­er­ship of a £12 mil­lion cas­tle in Ire­land, which was put up for sale late last year.

In his mes­sage to col­leagues, Prof Von Prondzyn­ski said: “The chair of the board has, en­tirely cor­rectly un­der our pro­ce­dures, ini­ti­ated an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“It is not ap­pro­pri­ate for me to make any fur­ther com­ment pend­ing the out­come of this in­ves­ti­ga­tion, ex­cept to say that I am en­tirely happy that this is the cor­rect ap­proach and fully con­fi­dent that the in­ves­ti­ga­tion will be fair and im­par­tial.”

The Uni­ver­sity and Col­lege Union (UCU) said it was “im­por­tant” that an RGU in­quiry into the con­cerns can get to the bot­tom of the “po­ten­tially se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions”.

Prof McCon­nell was ap­pointed to the com­pany in 2006, while he was work­ing at the same Dublin uni­ver­sity as Prof von Prondzyn­ski.

RGU has said the com­plaint had trig­gered “pub­lic in­ter­est re­view pol­icy pro­ce­dure”, with its in­ves­ti­ga­tion be­lieved to be fo­cused on whether the busi­ness con­nec­tion was ap­pro­pri­ately de­clared dur­ing the ap­point­ment of Mr McCon­nell, who took on the post in Jan­uary.

Re­spond­ing to the probe, UCU Scotland of­fi­cial Mary Se­nior said: “These are po­ten­tially se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions and it’s im­por­tant that the uni­ver­sity’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion iden­ti­fies whether there has been any im­pro­pri­ety or con­flict of in­ter­est.”

Prof McCon­nell’s job at RGU was not re-ad­ver­tised af­ter his pre­de­ces­sor Jan Cut­ting moved to a new post at the uni­ver­sity just a few months af­ter be­ing re­cruited last year.

An RGU spokes­woman has said that the uni­ver­sity was “aware of the mat­ter”, and that “we are fol­low­ing our pub­lic in­ter­est re­view pol­icy pro­ce­dure and are there­fore not in a po­si­tion to com­ment at this stage”.

Asked about the recruitment process, she added: “The ap­point­ment process was in line with the uni­ver­sity’s ap­proved recruitment pol­icy and pro­ce­dure. The role was not re-ad­ver­tised and there were not any other can­di­dates.

“The in­ter­view panel con­sisted of the chair of the board of gov­er­nors, the prin­ci­pal, two mem­bers of the ex­ec­u­tive, the di­rec­tor of HR and an ex­ter­nal panel mem­ber.”

CON­FLICT OF IN­TER­EST: Knock­drin Cas­tle in County West­meath, Ire­land, fea­tures 12 be­d­rooms within a rolling park­land es­tate of more than 1,000 acres

Prof Fer­di­nand von Prondzyn­ski

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