THE EMBATTLED head of Aberystwyth university may be forced out, journalists at The Herald’s partner organisation, The Eye, have revealed.
As storm clouds gather over Vice Chancellor April McMahon, sources have confirmed to us that she could be leaving the institution, which has plunged down university rankings, by the end of the year.
Dr McMahon was paid £228,000 for 2012/13, after a pay rise award of 9.57 per cent, butpensioncontributions took the figure to £252,000.
Officials at the university insist this salary, which is 60 per cent higher than that of the Prime Minister David Cameron, is “performance-related”.
Yet Aberystwyth have dropped several places in key performance tables, and a plunge in student applications has led to a severe financial crisis, even as they have opened a new campus on the tropical island of Mauritius.
The university have fallen four places to 110 (out of 119) in The 2016 Guardian University league table.
In May last year Aberystwyth dropped 17 places to 87 in The Complete University Guide.
In The Times and The Sunday Times guide they fell 11 places to 93.
A damaging profile of the university stated: “Aberystwyth has set itself the goal of becoming one of the top 30 universities in the UK and the top 250 in the world by 2017.
“It is a tall order where The Times and The Sunday Times league table is concerned, with the university presently in danger of falling out of our top 100, dropping 11 places this year after last year’s 35-place fall.”
Meanwhile a petition demanding the resignation of Dr McMahon was started by angry students who are worried about their degrees.
It now has almost 2,000 signatories, and declares: “Staff work in what they often describe as a ‘culture of fear’.
“Students came to Aberystwyth when it was a top 50 University and will leave with a degree from an institution flailing at the bottom of the league tables.”
The revelation about Dr McMahon is set against a backdrop of controversy.
Just over two years ago dozens of protesters stopped traffic on a road at the entrance to the university, in support of two staff members who had been suspended.
The director of the university’s arts centre Alan Hewson and the operations manager, Auriel Martin, had been suspended from their jobs since February.
Aberystwyth have also been beset by financial trouble caused by falling rolls.
They have seen their first year student-enrollment figures drop by almost a quarter since 2011.
Their director of finance, Peter Curran, said: “The financial implications of under-recruitment have never been so significant”
It is obvious that deep dissatisfaction exists, after the university dropped in educational rankings and a financial crisis has hit.
But officials remain defiant, saying: “We would rather be higher in the league tables – yes, and we will be; but they are really only a small part of the story.
“We are a university built on a proud tradition of extending a university education to all who are able to benefit from it, committed to excellent teaching informed by high-quality research, and passionate about the success of our students.
“We are delivering outstanding results and look forward to another year of high achievement for students and staff.”
Despite the growing controversy, the university have announced the establishment of a new campus on the luxury holiday island of Mauritius, and the appointment of David Poynton as founding dean.
Aberystwyth say he will be responsible “for the establishment, operation and development of the campus as well as its academic portfolio and engagement with the Mauritian and international communities”.
Perhaps the academic community may now be satisfied once Dr McMahon moves on.
Or perhaps not.
[To read more quality investigative journalism from around Wales visit http://walespolitico.uk/waleseye/ ]
Police officer punched and spat at minutes after aggressive man held knife to his own throat
A POLICE officer was punched in the face and spat at as he responded to a report of a violent man with a knife.
The Dyfed-Powys Police PC was left with swelling and bruising following the incident in Carmarthen on Saturday, October 17.
He also attended A&E for his eye to be cleaned after being spat at by Michael Ivan Priestly, who has since been charged and sentenced for assaulting an officer.
The force received a report of a disturbance at a house in Glanffynnon at around 9.40am, where it was said the 43-year-old was in possession of a knife.
Sergeant Darren Morgan said: “We positioned ourselves outside the property, and the defendant came out in a raging state, shouting, swearing and throwing his arms about.
“His behaviour was so alarming that we feared for our safety until he went back inside.”
Further units attended to provide support, but once inside the house, the defendant’s behaviour became more concerning.
“Through the back window we could clearly see him in possession of a knife, which he pointed at us several times in a threatening manner,” Sgt Morgan said.
“He then put the knife to his throat. We weren’t sure if he was threatening to harm himself or us.
“We attempted to engage with him, but he came outside again, shouting aggressively and swearing.”
Priestly removed a six inch knife from the waistband of his trousers, and dropped in on the ground when instructed.
Efforts were made to calm him down, but he became more uncooperative until the point he lashed out and punched a PC, before spitting at him.
Priestly was arrested and taken to custody, where he continued his tirade against officers.
He was charged with assaulting an emergency worker, and appeared at Llanelli Magistrates’ Court on Monday, October 19.
He was sentenced to a community order, a rehabilitation activity requirement, 100 hours of unpaid work, and must pay a total of £280 in compensation and costs.
Sgt Morgan said: “I would like to commend all officers involved in the incident for their actions in preventing Priestly from potentially harming himself or others.”
Killer Andrew Jones must spend at least 30 years in jail
A KILLER from Carmarthen will spend at least 30 years in jail.
Andrew Jones, 53, from Bronwydd Road, denied murdering his long-time friend Michael O’Leary but was convicted by a jury.
Mrs Justice Jefford set a minimum term of 30 years which he must serve before he can be considered for parole. She described the killing as ” a planned ambush”.
She told the killer: “Michael O’Leary did something wrong but he did not deserve to pay for that with his life. All accounts of him is of a man who lit up the room and played a central role in the lives of his family.
“Your family stands by you. You are more than fortunate in that. The impact of your actions in their lives has also been devastating. They feel ostracised from the community from where they live.
“Your wife still talks about you as the love of her life and your children talk about you in glowing terms.”
The judge made an order for the forfeiture and destruction of a rifle but not of the other guns in Jones’ possession.
She added: “This was a remarkable investigation by Dyfed-Powys Police.
“The officers and operatives involved are too numerous to mention but they are all to be commended for their efforts.”
Mr Jones’ barrister Karim Khalil QC is now addressing the court.
He said: “The defendant himself is not a highly educated man. He made the best of the talents he had.
“He worked all hours, not in any sense workshy. He built a family life which is now destroyed.
“He is remorseful for what happened. He is not cold-blooded.
“He acknowledges the pain he has caused.”
Two week national ‘Firebreak Lockdown’ announced for Wales from 6pm on Friday
MARK DRAKEFORD, The First Minister of Wales has announced a two week ‘fire break’ lockdown from Friday October 23 at 18:00 HRS, to last until Monday November 9 at 00:01 HRS
Mr Drakeford said: “This firebreak is the shortest we can make it. It must be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus.”
All non essential businesses, including tourism businesses will be told to close.
Businesses have been told that they will be given £1000 each automatically to help with the economic impact of the shutdown.
Mr Drakeford added that children will be the priority and that childcare facilities will open as normal. Primary schools will open after half term.
Secondary schools will be closed for a week after half term to help control the virus.
Universities will offer a mixture of face-to-face learning and learning via video link. Students must stay at their university accommodation during the lockdown.
Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement of a Wales-wide lockdown, Paul Davies MS, the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament, has called the lockdown “not-proportionate” and is calling on the Welsh Government to be “open and transparent” on the evidence to support a lockdown and if the First Minister is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns every month.
Paul Davies MS said: “Sadly, the First Minster has failed to get public support for this second Wales-wide lockdown, failing to be open and transparent about the evidence to justify this lockdown and what his actions will entail for the future.
“The Welsh Government also has to be honest that this road they are taking us down is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns. This is not a two-week break to solve the pandemic, it is likely that we will see regular lockdowns across the rest of the year. The Welsh Government must be clear what actions they are taking during the lockdown to prevent further Wales-wide lockdowns which will have a significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.
“However, the main concern is that this national lockdown is not proportionate. The impact on businesses in areas such as Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, who have the lowest rate of Covid-19 cases in Wales, will be severe at a time when they are desperately struggling to recover from the pandemic so far this year.
“The First Minister needs to urgently come to the Welsh Parliament and answer these questions, to face effective scrutiny by elected representatives and not run his government by media.”
Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb told The Herald: “The evidence to support an all-Wales lockdown is weak and I am sceptical that this so-called ‘fire-break’ will tackle the situation in those parts of Wales where infection rates have been out of control. The key issue for Welsh Government to address is what will be done differently after the firebreak ends in those parts of Wales where infection rates have spiralled out of control. Otherwise the whole of Wales risks being dragged back into a series of rolling lockdowns.
“As we saw earlier in the year, lockdowns come with huge costs in terms of harm to the economy and to people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. With the Welsh Government asking UK Government to fund this lockdown, I hope that as many businesses as possible get support they need quickly. Pembrokeshire’s hospitality businesses will be hit particularly hard by these latest restrictions and I will be fighting hard again to see that they are protected as the lockdown kicks in.”
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