Battle over old uni role

FORMER University of Newcastle deputy vice-chancellor Sue Gould is challenging a decision by the institution to make her position redundant.

Dr Gould, who was deputy vice-chancellor, services, went on sick leave in March 2011. She said vice-chancellor Caroline McMillen, who started at Newcastle in October 2011, advised her in October 2012 that her position would be made redundant.

Dr Gould said she was told the role was to be replaced with the position of chief operating officer as part of the university's New Directions strategic plan.

Part of her former division was to be transferred to the deputy vice-chancellor, academic division, and her role as university secretary would be replaced by the position of director council services and chancellery.

Dr Gould told the Newcastle Herald she and her solicitors objected to the proposed redundancy.

"I did not agree that this was a redundancy," she said. "I was keen to return to work after my period of WorkCover supported sick leave."

Dr Gould was made redundant and left the university's employment in late November 2012.

Having approached the Herald this week, she said she chose to speak about her case in order to clarify her health and employment status.

The university has previously declined to comment on Dr Gould's case.

A spokeswoman said this week the university noted Dr Gould had been unable to work in her former role for 14 months, from April 2011 to June 2012, during which time the university supported her on full pay and benefits.

"The university has also been diligent in providing Dr Gould her full substantive entitlements throughout this period," she said.

Dr Gould is among a procession of staff who, for various reasons, have vacated senior positions at the university during the past 18 months or who will depart in coming months.

This includes three deputy vice-chancellors and four pro vice-chancellors.

In addition, the university is advertising for heads of school for education and creative arts. Earlier this month it was also searching for a head of architecture and built environment.

The Herald has reported many of the departures have coincided with an ambitious plan to have the university ranked among the top 2 per cent of the world's universities by 2015.

Vice-chancellor McMillen has rejected suggestions the changes in senior staff are related to the plan.

"Academic staff who take on major leadership roles . . . usually take on five-year contracts," she told staff last week. "These jobs can take their toll and importantly they also take senior academics away from their own international research careers as they juggle competing demands in a fast-moving environment."

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