Belfast Telegraph

'Leadership vacuum' at QUB as top post still not filled

By Rebecca Black

Concern has been raised at Queen's University's failure to appoint a new leader - seven months after the post became vacant.

The Vice-Chancellor position has remained unfilled since Patrick Johnston died suddenly last June.

There had been speculation that Queen's would announce a successor last month, but it did not happen.

The University College Union (UCU), the union that represents university staff at Queen's, warned of a "leadership vacuum" at the institution.

"We are in the midst of a management crisis at Queen's," a spokesperson said.

"If this drags on, it will damage our credibility and the role we play in our local communities and our economy.

"We're very worried that the university is having difficulty in appointing a suitable candidate to lead the university at this very challenging time.

"Queen's has an important social responsibility and function to play here in Northern Ireland, which it needs to take seriously."

UCU president at Queen's, Dr Fabian Schuppert, stressed the need for the university's new Vice-Chancellor to "hit the ground running".

"Queen's is a large, complex - and for Northern Ireland - very important organisation that requires strong and visionary leadership," he said.

"We cannot have a situation where such a vital component in our society and our economy is left rudderless, as pressing political and economic concerns - not least caused by the crisis at Stormont, and the earthquake of Brexit - continue to cause anxiety across the academic community and locally in Northern Ireland.

"Our students deserve better, we deserve better and Northern Ireland deserves better. This is an important role, not only for the university, but in driving what the university does - socially, culturally, educationally, economically - across Northern Ireland.

"It is vital that someone who understands and can contribute positively to this local context is appointed as soon as possible."

He also called for the next Vice-Chancellor to receive a reduced remuneration package.

The previous Vice-Chancellor received a salary of around £250,000, as well as accommodation in the vice-chancellor's lodge - a luxurious three-storey property set in landscaped gardens at Lennoxvale, off the Malone Road in south Belfast.

A Queen's University spokesperson said: "As a world-class international university, Queen's Selection Committee has undertaken an extensive global search for its next president and Vice-Chancellor.

"The work of the committee is ongoing and a recommendation will be brought to Senate, the university's governing body, in early 2018.

"Queen's contributes £1bn to the economy each year.

"It is one of the largest employers in Northern Ireland, supporting over 9,250 jobs and supplies 6,500 highly skilled graduates each year."

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