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RGU principal to step down over ‘reputational damage’ caused by hiring row

Thursday August 9th 2018 at 10:40 AM

The principal of Robert Gordon University will step down at the end of the month after a row over his hiring of a new professor.

Current deputy principal John Harper will take over the principal role on August 31.

The outgoing Ferdinand von Prondzynski has been cleared of having a conflict of interest in the appointment of Gordon McConnell.

He failed to declare the pair were co-directors of a firm that owned a castle in Ireland.

An internal investigation has found that Mr McConnell was given the job fairly, but the outgoing principal says that conclusion has caused division and damage to the university’s reputation.

That’s something which he says he ‘personally hugely regrets’.

Commenting on the announcement, he said: “I have enjoyed steering RGU through some exciting and challenging times over more than seven years and I take considerable satisfaction from the continued growth and standing achieved both nationally and internationally during this time.

“The investigation into the alleged conflict of interest regarding the appointment of Gordon McConnell found that the appointment was properly made and that neither Gordon nor I intentionally sought to mislead.

“There was an oversight on my part, for which I have already taken full responsibility.

“I recognise that the outcome of the investigation has caused division and therefore had a damaging impact on the university’s reputation, which I personally hugely regret.

“Therefore my main reason for deciding to step down is to allow RGU to recover from these events. I am confident it will do so quickly.

“While I will step down from my position, I will remain a strong supporter of RGU and of the North-east of Scotland, for which I have a huge affection.”

Chairman of the university’s Board of Governors Mike Fleming added: “The way this matter has played out in public has had a damaging impact on the university and has been a testing time for all those involved.

“We respect Ferdinand’s decision, which we know he has taken in the best interests of protecting the university’s well-deserved and hard-won reputation. We would like to thank Ferdinand for his service to RGU.

“It is now vital that we have a strong and united leadership team and we are very pleased to confirm that Professor John Harper has been appointed as the new principal.

“John is a widely-respected and popular educational leader who will provide continuity, stability and energy to drive the institution forward.”

Vice-principal Paul Hagan – who had quit over the storm – has withdrawn his resignation.

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