Kingston's outspoken Vice-Chancellor Sir Peter Scott will resign in December at a critical time for higher education, leaving uncertain the university's flagship mission of 'widening participation'.
Sir Peter is leaving six months early after 13 years at Kingston. His departure co-incides with a perfect storm of financial pressure for the university as funding for courses is cut and tuition fees for students may double.
At an emergency meeting of the Student Union last week the V-C said: “It’s a really serious situation. There will be less money, meaning higher fees but potentially less teaching time.”
Executive search firm Odgers & Berndtson, who have been hired to help find Sir Peter's successor have advertised for "an outstanding leader" with "a genuine empathy with the mission and vision of Kingston University". But the candidate they seek also needs to have "a willingness to take difficult decisions" and "a record of success in change management" - often jargon for cuts and redundancies.
Sir Peter said: "I am not concerned about the hiring process of the new vice-chancellor, I'm sure they will find a high quality sucessor."
Six candidates will be shortlisted for interview on 1 November. Three candidates will be selected for second interviews on 16 November and the Board of Governors will then appoint the new vice-chancellor at the end of the month. However he or she will not take office until spring or summer 2011.
Professor Fiona Ross, Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences, who is on the interview panel, refused to comment on the recruitment process but admitted that a potential rise in tuition fees was worrying her. She said: "Widening participation is a central part of the mission of this (Kingston) university. Universities will have to work against the grain to avoid increasing the gulf between the privileged and those from more disadvantaged backgrounds for whom high fees will seem an insurmountable barrier."