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Student President says Diamond payoff was ‘far too high’

UoA said this week it would no longer be ‘pursuing’ the ex-Principal for a repayment

By: Anttoni Numminen

Sir Ian Diamond - Photograph: University of Aberdeen

Professor Sir Ian Diamond, now head of the UK Office for National Statistics and former head of UoA made headlines again this week after his successor announced the University would “not pursue” repayment of the £119,000 the institution was ordered to pay the Scottish Funding Council following his retirement in 2018.

Speaking to the Gaudie, Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA) Student President, Cecilia Wallbäck, said the payoff made to the former University of Aberdeen (UoA) Principal and Vice-Chancellor was “far too high”, but said from a legal standpoint she understood there was “disappointingly little the University can do about it.”

Wallbäck’s statement was echoed by that of the Aberdeen University and College Union (UCU), who said they also understood the University had no legal basis for pursuing Prof Diamond for the money paid to him. However, the UCU branch encouraged the now-top government mandarin, to “donate an equivalent sum to the Discretionary Fund and/or the EU/International Hardship Fund, both of which provide support to University of Aberdeen students experiencing financial difficulties.

“The Scottish Funding Council’s investigation concluded that ‘there were flaws in the conduct of the University’s Remuneration Committee’ and the University was in breach of Financial Memorandum requirements. The Scottish Funding Council required the University to pay back £119,000 and to conduct ‘an externally-facilitated review of its governance procedures and culture’. Aberdeen UCU calls on the University of Aberdeen to learn from this review and to ensure that there is no repetition of such ‘flawed conduct’.”

Ian Diamond, Head of the ONS, speaks at a government press briefing.

On Monday (1 December), Principal George Boyne held a ‘Q and A’ open session at which he was asked by the Gaudie whether, in the context of not pursuing repayment from the former Principal, the University considered it appropriate to continue fining students for Covid-19 rule breaches, collectively to the tune of £32,000 so far.

Boyne responded by saying: “It was the right regime for the circumstances while we had a very significant spike in the number of Covid-19 cases in our halls and that resulted from behaviour that was not compliant with the restrictions that were in place at the time.

“[…] And the second part of your question which I think is entirely separate and not really related to the issue of fines... Of course, the fines are paid into our student hardship fund, which is to benefit the student community as a whole, it’s not something from which the University derives direct financial benefit.

“Regarding the question of the repayment to the University by the former Principal, the legal advice that we've had is that it would not be possible to pursue that repayment and therefore it’s not sensible for us to take it any further. We continue to hope, of course, that we will hear more on this issue from the former Principal and the court has requested that the money be repaid and if that money were to be repaid then we would be very pleased.”

The Student President also said to the Gaudie that as the University had undergone a governance review, she hoped “something like this won't be happening again”.


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