Controversies have an unfortunate habit of re-surfacing in Welsh universities, and it is intriguing how certain people seem to rise and rise.
Earlier this month Alison Wride was appointed Head of Bangor University’s (BU) Business School tweeting that it: “Turns out I have the appetite for one more big HE job after all”, but there is a back-story to this appointment.
It starts with Hilary Lappin-Scott (OBE) who is well-known to readers of The Eye, and we were the first to report her leaving Swansea University (SU) as a huge scandal at the School of Managemeni (SoM) she oversaw developed.
Dr Lappin-Scott joined Swansea as Pro Vice-Chancellor (PVC) in January 2010 and had responsibility for the oversight of the College of Business, Economics and Law (CBEL) before a re-organisation and with the rump of it becoming the SoM.
Yet before joining SU, Dr Lappin-Scott had been at BU (but left after one year citing “irreconcilable differences”) and, before that, at Exeter University (EU) for 20 years.
Her Linked In profile proudly proclaims: “I was awarded an OBE in the 2018 New Year’s Honours List for services to Microbiology and the advancement of women in science, technology, engineering and maths…”.
In December 2011 Ms Wride was appointed Head of SU’s CBEL.
Dr Lappin-Scott and Ms Wride are known to be friends and, no doubt, the crossing of their paths at SU was purely coincidental.
Ms Wride left Swansea in 2012 (after less than 12 months in post), to join the private equity-financed Greenwich School of Management (GSoM, which was subsequently known as GSM London), as Provost.
But her time at Swansea had been contentious; one academic member condemned her and said that “… running a Business School was well beyond her abilities”.
Yet it seems that Ms Wride’s period at GSoM was, temporarily at least, successful.
Despite this, a more detailed insight into the modus operandi of GSoM/GSM London, under Ms Wride’s leadership, is best captured in the Times Higher Education in December 2015, which reported that GSM London was “rapped by Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) over business course”.
The QAA, which is the UK’s quality assurance watchdog, had upheld a complaint about a course offered by GSM London, which is a for-profit college and one of the UK’s largest private providers of higher education.
The college acknowledged that at some point during 2013 the title of the BSc Business Management (Travel and Tourism Pathway) had been altered on its course record database and that the error had remained undetected until January 2015.
It was also said in the official criticism, that a number of ‘changes’ to module titles and learning outcomes had not been approved by the university.
The QAA added:“The approved structure and content of the Travel and Tourism Pathway programme is not presented accurately or consistently in information provided to prospective and current students, such as on the website and in programme and module guides.
“Module titles and learning outcomes presented in information available to students are not those approved by the awarding body (Plymouth).
“Promotional material available during 2013 and 2014 included a programme title which had not been approved by the college’s awarding body.
“The approved structure and content of the Travel and Tourism Pathway programme is not presented accurately or consistently in information provided to prospective and current students, such as on the website and in programme and module guides.”
In conclusion, the QAA report said that although the college “has itself identified the error in the title of the BSc Business Management (Travel and Tourism Pathway) in its record system, it has not acted expeditiously to identify and remedy the consequences”.
Ms Wride ‘left’ GSM London in May 2015
But there have been a number of other interesting connections .
In 2003, Ivor Dewdney Bakery Limited, was set up with Ms Wride as Secretary and 50 per cent co-owner, the other 50 per cent being held by Christopher Wride (Bakery Manager).
The company was formally dissolved in May 2014 with zero assets and debts of over £336,000, but in 2012, she had co-founded EML Learning Limited owning 50 per cent of the company, yet her stake was subsequently reduced to 25 per cent, with 25 per cent being transferred to Christopher Wride (Bakery Manager).
EML Learning Limited continues today, offering ” … education of the highest quality to the public, private, and third sectors. We use leading academics and experts to teach the latest developments in their field of expertise.
“EML Learning delivers the economics catalogue of courses for the UK Government on behalf of Civil Service Learning.”
Given her history, it is very doubtful that Ms Wride’s appetite for “one more big HE job” will be shared by the faculty of the Business School.
There also appears to be a potential conflict of interest between her position as Head of Bangor Business School and her stake with EML Learning Limited.
The Eye, however, are confident that the Council of BU will have carried out a full due-diligence exercise on the suitability of Ms Wride for the job of Head of their Business School.
But an even worse prospect for Bangor is the return of Dr Lappin-Scott acting as an academic advisor and ‘consultant’.
Perhaps Ms Wride should begin a new course on the importance of connections in business.
Or perhaps not…
Tomorrow – another Welsh university, another controversy…
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