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Phil Parry is a former BBC news and current affairs reporter. He is winner of the BT Wales award for journalist of the year, BT Wales TV reporter of the year and radio reporter of the year.
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Staff at a crisis-hit Welsh university have told The Eye an official scheme to get rid of people is a “farce” amid claims from academics that they are too afraid to speak out publicly about the “chaos” and contentious campus name-changes, but officials have said to us the controversial Vice-Chancellor is working “working normally”.

One of our contacts at Cardiff Metropolitan University (CMU) has warned that the best staff left under the Voluntary Severance (VS) scheme and others were ‘persuaded’ to leave.

Staff say they are under suspicion

A source said that in a case after VS, a vacancy was soon re-advertised even though the post was not meant to be filled for two years.

There is also huge anger among academics at CMU aimed at the mainstream media in Wales, that they still refuse to report the growing crisis, and it has been left to The Eye. 

The Eye were told:  The VS scheme was a farce.

“All the best Admin staff left.

The ‘sandwich saga’ has become notorious at CMU

“VS people’s jobs were not supppsed to be replaced within two years but this has not been the case, e.g. (one top executive) was given a ‘persuading conversation’ to leave and took VS.

“That … vacancy was advertised this summer.”
Staff have also claimed to us that senior officials have effectively been “brought in” by Professor Aitchison from previous educational institutions where she has worked, and they are simply not up to the job.
Among the other controversial changes at CMU brought in under her rule have been name-changes.
Cyncoed campus – ‘Eastern’

The Cyncoed campus in Cardiff has been labelled ‘Eastern’ and Llandaff on the A48 is ‘Western’ but the alterations have been condemned by staff.

One of our sources described the idea as “madcap” and that it “makes the campuses sound like leisure centres”.
Adverts for a senior executive post at the former Cyncoed campus reveal the truth where Cyncoed is given as the “Eastern Community Campus”.


Advert for a senior post at the ‘Eastern’ campus

We have also been given details of alleged “bullying” in a “toxic” atmosphere, and a different staff member got into trouble for “not eating a sandwich within the designated lunch hour” when officials from Human Resources were called in.

The event became notorious within CMU as the ‘sandwich saga’.

Are CMU staff afraid of speaking out publicly?

Another said to The Eye:  “It has become obvious amongst all of us that anyone in CMU mentioning (The) Eye is immediately under suspicion for being one of your sources.

“They are afraid of the truth about the shambles … at CMU getting out into the mainstream media.


The UCU say a health and wellbeing survey was postponed

“Even UCU (University and College Union) colleagues are afraid to speak out which is indicative of the atmosphere here.”

Internal information appears to confirm what we have been told, and documents show that CMU has set an ambitious target of reaching a level of 26,425 students by 2023, an increase of 8,810 on today’s figure of 17,615, while staff claim they are under-resourced for an enlargement on this scale and students are being admitted who simply cannot cope with degree work.

The embattled VC and her key officials have begun a major structural change to accommodate the new students, but academics remain deeply unhappy.

Staff claim they are told to bring in new students

Even as the scandal at CMU has not emerged into mainstream media, The Eye have been inundated with desperate comments from distressed academics, and the latest says they are “demoralised and demotivated”.

Staff at CMU claim they are under enormous pressure because of the changes, and mental health is a major concern yet a wellbeing survey has been postponed.

They want more and more students in Cardiff

One contact told us earlier:  “Staffing levels are completely inadequate.

“Sickness levels and grievances are through the roof across the university.”

Another of our sources within the Welsh university sector said:“They are rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic”.

A different unhappy academic has told us the university is in “turmoil” and in a state of “carnage”.

Is CMU a ‘rudderless ship’?

The university has responded to a lengthy request for details under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) completely denying information from one of our contacts that Professor Aitchison and her deputy had been placed on ‘sick leave’ as the huge changes unfolded and the drive for more students came under fire from academics at CMU.

We had also asked officials who now is in charge at the university amid accusations from the academics, that it is a “rudderless ship”.

Responses normally come in weeks not hours

Normally responses to FOIA requests take several weeks, but remarkably this time denials came within hours, and CMU officials stressed that “Professor Cara Aitchison … is working normally”.

These questions were also sent to a senior official at CMU who is one of Professor Aitchison’s acolytes marked “urgent” but there has been no reply.

The Eye have asked for further details to be made known publicly in a another series of FOIA questions.

Among these are how much money has been paid out in VS settlements since Professor Aitchison became VC and the number of senior staff who have left under these agreements.

Keep reading The Eye!

Our journalists have also asked CMU to tell us how many staff have been required to sign ‘non-disclosure’ sections.

More could be disclosed – but not in the mainstream media it seems.


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