THE University of the Highlands and Islands project has parted company with Professor Brian Duffield, its controversial chief executive, who has made it clear he did not want to go.
In a frank but bitter letter to Sir Fraser Morrison, chairman of the UHI board of governors, Professor Duffield says he had planned to step down in February after the achievement of higher education designation, which is essential to unlock support from the HE funding council. But he accepted that his continued presence could put the project at risk.
Delays in HE designation, Scottish Executive doubts about progress and reports of staff turmoil and resignations led to complaints about Professor Duffield's management style. An investigation into staff allegations was set up under Kenneth MacKay, a former senior Scottish Office civil servant. The report, as yet unpublished, is said to be "damning".
Professor Duffield described his critics as a cabl attempting to derail the project. One of those is Sir Graham Hills, one of the UHI architects. UHI supporters also believe Inverness College, as the largest in the region, has not been full-hearted in its backing.
Referring to the MacKay report, Professor Duffield told Sir Fraser: "I fundamentally disagree with both the way it was carried out and its findings. However, I believe that to contest these matters in the present climate would do serious damage to the UHI project and its public credibility and I believe the recent events have done enough damage already."
Sir Fraser's reply praised Professor Duffield's "drive and determination". He added: "If, as we all hope, (HE) designation is granted in the not too distant future a lot of the credit will be yours."
Alistair MacFarlane, former principal of Heriot-Watt University and a member of the UHI academic council, will take over until a new appointment is made.