Wednesday 19 December 2018

Former DCU president steps down from Scottish university role amid controversy

Prof Ferdinand von Prondzynski
Prof Ferdinand von Prondzynski
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

THE former president of Dublin City University (DCU), Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, is stepping down from his position as principal of Scotland's Robert Gordon University (RGU) after a conflict of interest controversy.

Prof von Prondzynski has been at the centre of a storm after failing to declare a business relationship with a man who was appointed as a vice-principal of the prestigious university in Aberdeen in north-east Scotland earlier this year.

The former DCU president and Mr Gordon McConnell are co-directors of Knockdrin Estates Limited, with an address at Knockdrin Castle, Mullingar, Co Westmeath - the family home of the von Prondzynskis since 1947.

The 18th-century gothic revival castle, on more than 1,000 acres near Mullingar, was put on the market late last year with an asking price of €13.5m.

An internal investigation found last month that the appointment was properly made and that neither Prof von Prondzynski, nor Mr McConnell had intentionally sought to mislead.

However, the governing authority's failure to sanction either of the men for breaching the university's conflict of interest policy triggered the resignation last month of Prof Paul Hagan, vice-principal for research.

In a joint statement from the university and Prof Von Prondzynski, announcing his resignation, he said there was an "oversight on my part, for which I have taken full responsibility".

The former DCU president said he recognised that "the outcome of the investigation has caused division and therefore had a damaging impact on the university's reputation, which I personally hugely regret".

He said his main reason for deciding to step down was "to allow RGU to recover from these events".

"I am confident it will do so quickly," he said.

Mike Fleming, chairman of the board of governors at RGU, said the way the matter has played out in public has had a damaging impact on the university.

"We respect Ferdinand's decision, which we know he has taken in the best interests of protecting the university's well-deserved and hard-won reputation," he said.

He paid tribute to Prof von Prondzynski and said under his leadership the university had had significant successes.

Prof von Prondzynski, who was president of DCU from 2000 to 2010, will step down on August 31 and will be succeeded by the current deputy principal, Prof John Harper.

Irish Independent

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