Fresh details have emerged about the background to the new head of a controversial Welsh business school, The Eye can reveal.
Marc Clement has been appointed to lead Swansea School of Management after the sudden resignation of his predecessor who had called union critics “grubby little people”.
But Professor Clement was a key figure in a scandal-hit scholarship project which funded the studies of his own manager’s daughter.
In 2011 the Welsh Government’s Welsh European Funding Office (WEFO) withdrew financial backing from the Prince of Wales Innovation Scholarship (POWIS), which was run by the controversial University of Wales where Professor Clement was Vice Chancellor, after serious irregularities were identified by auditors.
Under the initiative, high-flying graduates from all over the world were meant to be singled out for PhD projects that would see them embedded in new hi-tech companies creating employment opportunities in Wales.
One of the first beneficiaries of POWIS was the daughter of Professor Richard Davies, Vice Chancellor of Swansea University, who did not hold a first class degree as the scheme stipulated.
Now the university have named Professor Clement acting dean of their management school.
Professor Clement is also closely linked to the ill-fated Technium initiative, which was designed to foster new companies.
Some commentators have questioned whether he is the right man to lead a business school.
“This seems a very strange appointment”, one senior academic told The Eye.
“Given this information about the Vice Chancellor’s daughter and everything that has happened with Techniums, is he (Clement) really the person to head a business school which has been in crisis?”
The background to Professor Clement’s time at the largely-defunct University of Wales, has also been questioned.
He was the senior official in charge, when a huge row erupted over the validation of bogus degrees, as The Eye showed last week.
In November 2010, BBC Wales screened an episode of their TV current affairs series Week In Week Out which claimed that Fazley Yaakob, a pop star and head of Fazley International College, a University of Wales partner in Malaysia, held bogus degrees.
Following a second BBC investigation, the vice-chancellors of Cardiff, Swansea, Aberystwyth, Bangor and Glamorgan universities – known collectively as the St David’s Day Group – called for an end to the University of Wales.
Yet Professor Clement controversially exercised an ‘option to return’ to Swansea university as it effectively abolished itself following a ‘merger’ with the university of Trinity St David’s.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this”, another academic told The Eye.
“An ‘option to return’ simply doesn’t exist in academic circles.
“A job is publicly advertised, a selection process is held and interviews are then conducted – there is no ‘option to return'”.
Meanwhile the troubled Technium initiative, linked to Professor Clement, has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons too.
Six were scrapped five years ago and some had extremely poor occupancy rates.
‘VALUE FOR MONEY’
Indeed, the then Welsh Development Agency and later Welsh Government officials privately referred to the Pembrokeshire Technium as “Emptium” and the Llanelli site as “Desertium”.
Lesley Griffiths, who is now Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, but was at the time Deputy Minister for Science, Innovation & Skill, said: “Parts of the (Technium) network are simply not delivering or providing value for money”.
10 Techniums were built across Wales at a massive cost to the public purse, but they ended up largely unoccupied and expensive to maintain.
An evaluation of the Technium programmes carried out by the consultancy firm DTZ revealed that each job generated by the project cost an average of £190,000 of public money, and occupancy rates at the Pembrokeshire Technium were as low as four per cent.
After much consideration, the Welsh Government finally pulled the plug on the £100 million Technium programme.
Professor Clement, though, was supportive.
In 2001, as Development Manager he had said: “Companies in Technium are exclusively in the knowledge economy, so they depend on new ideas for their future development and growth.”
But the controversy about Swansea’s School of Management has continued to the present day and Professor Clement may have his work cut out.
A source close to the school said it was in “dissarray” and it could take many years to recover its tainted reputation.
On Monday it was confirmed the son of the controversial former dean of the school, Niall Piercy, had left his post.
Professor Piercy was deputy to Nigel and ‘Pro-Dean’, but he did not survive the new regime under Professor Clement, and he left 10 days after his father.
The university refuse to comment on whether Nigel’s wife, Nikala Lane, remains ‘Associate Professor’ at the school.
It will be interesting to see how long she remains.
After all, family ties only stretch so far…