Kingston students slam university’s £250k for new president

The new president  – and former vice-chancellor – of Kingston University, Julius Weinberg, is to have his new position and £251,461 salary investigated by his own students.

Earlier this month, an emergency general meeting of Kingston students’ union voted to condemn Weinberg’s new role and look into whether his appointment broke the law.

Weinberg, 62, resigned as university vice-chancellor in September 2016 and was subsequently appointed president – a role thought to be created for him – trousering a payrise of £37,461 in the process. The salary details were obtained via the Freedom of Information Act.

They were cited by computer science undergraduate Gideon Sassoon, who proposed the student union’s motion. Sassoon told the packed meeting: “The role of president was never widely advertised, raising the suggestion that it was specifically created for Professor Weinberg.”

The student union’s motion, passed on 9 March, stated: “We believe that this borders on inappropriate use of public and student finances. Professor Weinberg was partly responsible for the university’s significant fall in official league tables, which we believe should have resulted in dismissal rather than promotion.”

In the 2016 National Student Survey, overall student satisfaction at Kingston dropped 20 places, from 125th position to 145th in the national table.

The university’s acting vice-chancellor is Professor Stephen Spicer, who took over in October 2016 following Weinberg’s departure. Spicer is being paid £190,000 per year, compared to the £214,000 paid to Weinberg during his time as vice-chancellor.

Sassoon told the union meeting that Weinberg’s new role was “a lie,” and that it was a disguise intended to mask what Sassoon called “gardening leave.” The Kingston Courier attempted to quiz Sassoon on these beliefs about Weinberg’s promotion, but was prevented from exploring the matter by a student union officer.

This month’s near-unanimous vote in favour of Sassoon’s motion saw Kingston students’ union resolve to “investigate the relevant area of law to determine if this practice was unlawful and accords with the practice of a public institution”, and vow to publish the investigation’s findings. It added that the money paid to Professor Weinberg “could have been spent on hiring more teaching staff”.

A Kingston University spokesman said: “Professor Weinberg’s role as president, which he will hold until December 2017, covers the university’s external profile and development activity. We do not discuss individual salaries.”

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