Senior officials at a controversial university have been named in the Welsh assembly, following revelations by The Eye of a growing scandal at the institution’s business school.
An official written question was put to the Welsh Government about Swansea university’s School of Management, naming the Vice-Chancellor, the school’s Dean, and a senior academic, whose qualifications are being scrutinised.
Assembly Member for South Wales West, Peter Black, asked the Welsh Education Minister to make a statement regarding the appointment of senior staff at the university’s school and the qualifications of Professor Steve Chan.
Professor Richard Davies the Vice-Chancellor and Marc Clement the Dean of their management school, were also named.
The shock move follows a disturbing sequence of events, where internal sources at the school have given The Eye information questioning the title of Professor Chan.
Mr Black, an AM with the university in his constituency, asked: “Will the Minister make a statement regarding the appointment of senior staff at Swansea University’s School of Management, following reports that a meeting was held between the Dean of the School, Marc Clements (sic), and University Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Davies about the qualifications of Professor Steve Chan?”
The Education Minister, Huw Lewis, responded: “The Welsh Government has no powers in relation to the internal management of universities or the appointment of staff.
“This is a matter for Swansea University.”
Steve Chan is ‘Chair and Professor of Cyber Analytics/Network Relationship Science’.
But we have endured a barrage of abuse concerning our inquiries.
The Eye understand there are now growing fears among senior executives at the university that the giant technology firm IBM, may cut all ties with Swansea.
Professor Chan is in the same group as Professor Clement at IBM.
The backdrop to the storm of controversy is the previous controversial regime at the school, led by the former Dean, Nigel Piercy, his son Niall, who both resigned, and his wife Nikala Lane, who remains.
During the Piercy regime the school was engulfed by scandal disclosed by The Eye.
Yet now the school is at the centre of attention for different reasons.
“We might not have agreed with the behaviour and actions of the Piercys but one thing we certainly can agree on is the need to have a full investigation into the conduct and competence of the university’s senior management team”, one academic has told The Eye.
Swansea university were confronted with a series of eight queries about Professor Chan by The Eye on January 13.
On January 29 the university provided a statement.
Part of this is as follows: “Steve Chan is a Big Data scientist who is an honorary associate professor in the University’s Medical School and is employed as a consultant by the School of Management.
“Professor Chan is Chief Innovation and Chief Strategy Officer for the Safer Planet Division at IBM.”
But many of our questions about Professor Chan remain unanswered.
In particular we wanted to know how he secured his PhD, and what, if anything, is his connection to Professor Clement.
Professor Clement, is on the ‘sensemaking’ advisory board of the same IBM centre as Professor Chan, and could be expected to have played a key role in his appointment to the management school.
Huge uncertainty now focuses on whether Professor Chan was properly registered at Swansea, and served the appropriate time as a Ph.D student.
Questions have also been raised about the analysis of work for his Ph.D, and the role of any external examiners.
Further queries surround whether all regulations were followed in his subsequent appointment to the university’s management school.
A source within the university told The Eye earlier: “This whole thing is highly suspicious”.
Another said: “Apparently, he (Professor Chan) is Director of ‘Swansea University’s Network/Relationship Science Analytics Programme’ which almost no-one has heard of here at Swansea.”
Professor Chan was awarded his doctorate in 2013.
He lists a series of posts elsewhere, indicating that he was not a full-time student at Swansea, so must have been available for a minimum of 35 hours per week.
The only alternative to study at the university, is if a doctorate candidate had been a Ph.D student at another high-quality institution such as Harvard or Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and transferred to Swansea, following a recommendation from the relevant head of school, so that the period of study at the institution is recognised.
One of Professor Chan’s Ph.D supervisors was Professor Clement who has controversially retained his role at the university’s medical school, and he was also ‘Fellow’ at the Prince of Wales Innovation Scholarship (POWIS) run by Professor Clement, where serious irregularities were identified by auditors.
One of the Swansea university sources told The Eye: “In terms of the academic credibility of Swansea university, the real question is how someone who has just been awarded a Ph.D can become a chair almost immediately at our institution.”
Commentators said at the time they believed the school needed a full-time official in charge, after hitting the headlines during the contentious regime of their former Dean, Professor Piercy, who resigned suddenly in July, after calling his critics “grubby little people” .
Professor Piercy’s son Niall also quit the school two weeks after his father.
‘Out of the frying pan into the fire’ is a phrase which perhaps should be included 0n one of the courses at Swansea School of Management.