Murdoch University has taken the extraordinary step of referring its vice-chancellor Professor Richard Higgott to the state’s Corruption and Crime Commission following an internal investigation.
In a carefully worded statement Murdoch announced its senate had unanimously decided to suspend professor Higgott, placing pro vice-chancellor professor Andrew Taggart in charge of the university on an interim basis.
Professor Higgott has been suspended on full pay. In the 2013 calendar year he earned about $785,000 in his second full year at the university.
Rumours have been circulating for some time about professor Higgott, thought to be fuelled by an anonymous group of academics and staff.
The vice-chancellor has driven significant change at the university since he started in 2011, recruiting a new look management team and embarking on a different corporate strategy.
Murdoch is the eighth-biggest tertiary education institution in WA, according to BNIQ, and the fourth-biggest of the state’s five universities. It has more than 1,700 staff and around 16,600 students.
Murdoch chancellor David Flanagan said in the statement the decision to suspend professor Higgott was regrettable but necessary as a result of the findings of the investigation and the policies of the university.
“We have forwarded to the CCC the outcomes of the investigation and we will continue to fully cooperate with the CCC in relation to these matters.
“The senate has determined that it is in the best interests of the university that professor Higgott be suspended pending further inquiries.
“Despite these events, Murdoch University is recognised internationally for its research, learning and teaching and we remain committed to realising this vision.”