The Independent London Newspaper

Controversial vice-chancellor Gillies to be replaced by Oxford Brookes professor at London Met

Left: Malcolm Gillies; right: John Raftery

Left: Malcolm Gillies; right: John Raftery

Published: 4 April, 2014
by PETER GRUNER

EMBATTLED London Metropolitan University – the borough’s biggest employer – is to have a new man in charge at the end of the year.

Current vice-chancellor Malcolm Gillies, responsible for a controversial programme of redundancies, is stepping down after four often turbulent years at the helm in Holloway Road.

In his place will be taken by Professor John Raftery who has served as pro vice-chancellor at Oxford Brookes University for nine years, covering areas including “student experience” and international strategy.

The Met’s Unison official Max Watson said he hoped the change in leadership would be for the good.

He added: “We welcome the appointment of a new vice-chancellor. We wish to draw a line under the last four years of disputes and despair and damage to industrial relations.

“We hope the new VC is able to meet with us and show respect for union reps rather than focus on attacking them. Dare I say, things can only get better.”

Professor Gillies was appointed in the wake of a financial scandal, in which London Met was fined £35million by England’s funding council for misreporting student numbers.

He said he was forced to axe hundreds of courses, resulting in the redundancies of many staff.

In August 2012 the university again made headlines after the Home Office stripped it of its licence to sponsor students from outside the EU, costing the institution tens of millions of pounds.

It later partially regained its licence and posted an operational surplus, although student numbers fell significantly last year. Professor Gillies also courted controversy in April 2012 by suggesting that some of the university’s campus would be made alcohol-free because some students, including Muslims, found alcohol “immoral”.

He was appointed head of London Met in 2010 after resigning as vice-chancellor from City University the previous year.

Professor Raftery, an expert in applied economics for real estate and construction, was previously Oxford Brookes’ dean of architecture and has also undertaken management consultancy assignments on major public infrastructure projects, and on cartels and restrictive practices in Hong Kong, Scandinavia and the UK.

He was a member of Kofi Annan’s Global Humanitarian Forum (2008-10) and has recently introduced a grade point average system at Oxford Brookes, which will run alongside the traditional degree classification scheme.

Clive Jones, London Met’s chairman of governors, said: “We are delighted to secure such an outstanding academic and university administrator to succeed Professor Gillies, who will leave with our very best wishes for a well-deserved retirement later this year.”

Professor Raftery said he was looking forward to the new challenge.

He added: “In the next couple of years we will need to deliver a significant programme of renewal, academic development, and performance improvement to strengthen our competitive appeal to communities in and beyond the capital city.”

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