University of Peterborough - it’s time to get your act together

Cllr John Holdich and city council education cabinet member Cllr Lynne Ayres at the site for the new campus.
Cllr John Holdich and city council education cabinet member Cllr Lynne Ayres at the site for the new campus.
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It is disappointing to read that a progress review produced by HM Treasury and the Local Government Association has recommended that the University of Peterborough project be delayed because of leadership deficiencies and unresolved disagreements among stakeholders over such important matters as the university’s curriculum, not to mention poor reporting of activities carried out, questionable budget projections and documents not being shared among decision-makers (“We will deliver a great university”, 14 February).

But it did not come as too much of a surprise to me.

Possibly because I had assisted in the appointment of new Academic Leads to develop courses for the university project, I was invited to throw my hat into the ring to be considered for the role of chair of the university’s shadow council and duly turned up for interview last October.

The panel asked all the right questions, but I evidently didn’t provide the right answers, because I never heard from them again, even though I received an email giving me a final date by which the panel’s decision would be communicated to me.

I subsequently wrote to point out that I had not received any news, but there was no reply.

Thinking about this now, I am tempted just to shrug my shoulders. After all, I am already Vice Chair of an existing university’s governing body and am not short of things to do.

Furthermore, when your newspaper revealed that the recruitment exercise had resulted in the appointment of the eminent and vastly experienced academic Professor Sir Les Ebdon (a former colleague of mine) to the role of chair, I readily acknowledged that he was a perfect fit.

But in the light of the damning progress review, my unusual first-hand experience of the University of Peterborough project compels me to write now that those driving the project really do need to get their act together, and fast.

A number of universities in the UK are already experiencing considerable difficulties, and these are invariably attributable to financial shortfalls or poor governance.

There is much media speculation that some higher education institutions may be facing the dire prospect of closure in the near future.

The apparently troubled state of the University of Peterborough project does not augur well in this context.

Worryingly, the project is - rightly or wrongly - giving the impression of being a problem child at a time when the higher education market looks as though it could be about to shake out problem institutions.

If this uncomfortable fact doesn’t concentrate minds locally, Peterborough’s university project will struggle to sustain momentum.

Professor David Head

Cactus House

Alderman’s Drive