Simon Gaskell has announced with an email to all staff his retirement. This is good news for the College, although it will be challenging to find a successor to reverse such decline witnessed in the past few years. Together with the departures of Matthew Evans and Jeremy Kilburn, none of the culprits of the destruction of the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences remains in post. As I put it to Gaskell in November 2011:
Before he goes, Simon Gaskell should reinstate John Allen, whom he unfairly dismissed.
On the same day he announced retirement, Queen Mary complied with the order it received from the First-Tier Tribunal to release the data from a poorly-designed multimillion clinical trial. Patients with myalgic encephalomyelitis connected the two events, as they have been unhappy with the University’s costly attempt to block access to the results of the trial. Others, informed about the consecutive legal proceedings considering the unfair dismissals of Babis Magoulas, John Allen and my own, felt that these verdicts were behind Simon Gaskell’s haste to retire.
Whatever the true reason for the step down is, Simon Gaskell will be remembered for breaking down previously existing College committees to enable a top-down management style, where whatever his appointed “senior executive” decided, was implemented; opposition was crashed and dissenters were silenced or fired. This embedded fear and cynicism into many, even those who were previously generous, critical and caring. Under his watch, millions were spent to legal fees, to senior executives (including himself) and their personal assistants, or ‘saved’ into College accounts; all this money nominally provided for academic purposes. Not to mention the decision to charge students 50% more than the true cost of their study. That this type of management of a public University is acceptable explains, in part, why the UK higher education sector is presently under such a crisis. The College should make every effort to recruit a Principal who understands and supports the academic mission of the institution. Another accountant in post, and there will be nothing left to associate Queen Mary with the University of London.