Swansea University has climate of fear, sacked vice-chancellor claims

By Bethan Lewis
BBC Wales education correspondent

image copyrightleighcol/Getty Images
image captionThe university said it "strongly denies" allegations made by Prof Richard Davies

A "climate of fear" has developed at Swansea University, according to its sacked former vice-chancellor.

Prof Richard Davies was dismissed for gross misconduct along with Prof Marc Clement, dean of the management school.

Prof Davies has urged the Welsh Government to investigate how the educational institution is being run.

The university said it "strongly denies his allegations" and he was seeking to "deflect attention from his own conduct".

Prof Davies, who had been in post for 16 years but was suspended eight months ago and sacked four days before his official retirement date, said he would fight to restore his reputation.

He was one of four staff members suspended in November, prompting an internal investigation and disciplinary process. They have all denied any wrongdoing.

image captionProf Davies had been vice-chancellor of Swansea University since 2003

Prof Davies claimed the allegations against him were "groundless" but would not comment specifically as he planned to appeal the decision.

"The real victim is truth [and] the whole university. I want to focus immediately on what's been happening at the university over the last nine months," he said.

"I'm calling upon the Welsh Government and HEFCW (Higher Education Funding Council for Wales) to carry out an independent investigation into what's going on at Swansea University, into the governance... what I see as failures within the university."

He claimed the university had since "imploded on itself" and had "undermined all sorts of major initiatives in the region".

"I hear stories about a climate of fear at the university," Prof Davies said.

"I'm really concerned because Wales doesn't have enough good universities.

"It can't afford to have any of those universities going into some sort of meltdown."

image captionProf Clement has also been dismissed from the university

Swansea University said it had kept the Welsh Government and HEFCW informed throughout.

"It is disappointing that Richard Davies has sought to deflect attention from his own conduct and that of others," a spokesman said.

"The university strongly denies his allegations.

"The university did not enter into this process lightly and a thorough and independent disciplinary, in accordance with the university's ordinances, has found there was serious misconduct, resulting in his dismissal."

Both Prof Davies and the university said they could not confirm details of the allegations, but they are centred on proposals for the development of a Wellness Village in Llanelli as part of the Swansea Bay City Deal.

The Welsh Government said the university was internationally recognised as an "excellent" research and teaching institution.

"Regarding staffing issues, higher education institutions are autonomous bodies and this remains a matter for the university, in line with the assurance that Welsh Government has received from HEFCW as part of its regulatory oversight," a spokesman added.

The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales said it had been monitoring the situation, but would not be making any decision on a review of governance in response to "unsubstantiated assertions" in the media.

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