Professor to lose pounds 500,000 job pay-off

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Huddersfield University has abandoned plans to pay its departing vice-chancellor, Professor Kenneth Durrands, a golden farewell worth a reported pounds 500,000.

The move comes after the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) demanded that the pay-off not go ahead. The council said it had taken legal advice and believed the university might have exceeded its powers, making the deal illegal.

Yesterday the council disclosed that the university had agreed to reconsider the severance package. A 40 per cent pay increase awarded on 1 February, which increased the professor's salary to pounds 120,000, would also be set aside. Professor Durrands is due to retire at the end of the year, before his contract expires, after a vote of no confidence in his regime by staff.

The severance package had been set at pounds 411,493 and benefits in kind.

In addition, Professor Durrands was to have received benefits including a pension and a tax-free lump sum.

Yesterday a spokesman for the HEFCE said: 'We welcome the decision.

Negotiation of the terms of any new severence agreement is a matter for the university and (the council) has no part to play in that process.'

But he added: 'The council reserves the right to take future legal action if necessary.'

Professor Durrands's contract was to have run until July 1996. He has held his post since 1970. Since Huddersfield's transformation from polytechnic to university, it has no longer been accountable to the local education authority.

Like all new universities it is an autonomous corporation, accountable only to the HEFCE, which uncovered details of the pay-off during a routine audit.

Last week Professor Graeme Davies, the chief executive of the HEFCE, gave Huddersfield an ultimatum.

The deputy secretary to the university's governing council, Mr Geoffrey Downs, said the university and Professor Durrands had voluntarily set aside the severance arrangements, including the salary increase awarded in February.

'The university council will now be reconsidering Professor Durrands's severance arrangments in consultation with the HEFCE as appropriate,' Mr Downs said.

'This action is not an acknowledgment or admission that the university council has in any way exceeded its powers in entering into the original severance arrangements.'