Sir Ian Diamond has been accused of insulting every Aberdeen University student who has struggled during the pandemic by failing to repay £119,000.
Cecilia Wallbäck, Aberdeen University Students’ Association president, said he should “do the right thing and hand the money back”.
Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald also questioned whether Sir Ian had a “moral obligation” to his former employer “in these difficult times”.
They spoke out after it emerged this week that Aberdeen University may abandon its pursuit of Sir Ian for a six-figure sum it had asked to be returned.
Following two probes into the former principal’s controversial “golden goodbye”, the ancient institution was ordered to repay £119,000 of its grant to the Scottish Funding Council earlier this year, and subsequently asked Sir Ian to give the money back.
But the new principal, George Boyne, told the BBC this week the university had received “no update” on the request, and that it had “no intention to pursue it”.
Sir Ian should do the right thing and hand the money back. The fact he hasn’t is an insult to every Aberdeen University student currently struggling financially in this pandemic.”
‘Pay-off was far too high’
The remarks have now triggered fresh demands for repayment.
Student president Ms Wallbäck said: “We believe that the amount of the payoff that Sir Ian Diamond received was far too high.
“Sir Ian should do the right thing and hand the money back.
“The fact he hasn’t is an insult to every Aberdeen University student currently struggling financially in this pandemic.”
She added: “I believe that the university has made some changes to their processes and hopefully situations like that won’t be happening again.”
Mr Macdonald, a north-east MSP, also questioned the failure to repay the money.
“Ian Diamond has broken no law by taking what he was offered, but he will know himself whether he has a moral obligation to Aberdeen University in these difficult times,” he said.
“Universities have every right to tap into the expertise of people who have been successful in business, but this case sounds a warning that some practices which are commonplace in the private sector are simply unacceptable when it comes to the use of taxpayers’ money.”
Probe launched by regulator
Investigations were launched last year by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) after the university’s accounts for 2017-18 showed Sir Ian was being paid £601,000 – including a salary of £282,000, pension contributions of £30,000, and contractual notice period payment and related expenses of £289,000.
It later emerged a payment of £50,000 plus VAT was also made on his behalf by the university for “outplacement support”, which was not disclosed in the accounts.
Under an agreement between the university and Sir Ian, the former principal only triggered his year-long notice period and payment at the moment he was succeeded by Professor Boyne in 2018, despite announcing his retirement plans a year earlier.
The SFC concluded in February that Aberdeen University effectively “incurred the cost of two principals” over a financial year as a result of an arrangement with Sir Ian, and that there had been “no documented assessment of value for money”.
The university was ordered to repay £119,000 of its grant and later revealed it had asked Sir Ian for a reimbursement.
OSCR found there had been “misconduct in the administration of the university”, but took no action due to measures already under way to tighten procedures, and because most of those involved had left.
Sir Ian did not respond to requests for comment.
An Aberdeen University spokesman said: “Our request remains with Professor Sir Ian Diamond for consideration; however, we have received no response to date.
“In the circumstances, the university regretfully has little alternative but to consider the matter closed.”