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University of Adelaide vice-chancellor Peter Rathjen. Photo: Naomi Jellicoe

University of Adelaide VC under ICAC investigation

Rumours swelled following news that the University of Adelaide’s vice-chancellor took sudden and indefinite leave that it was due to the university’s finances – something the university denied – but today the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption uncharacteristically announced that VC Peter Rathjen is under investigation over allegations of improper conduct.

In a statement released today, Bruce Lander said he would not typically confirm or deny the existence of such an investigation but decided to do so “in light of the intense speculation regarding The University of Adelaide, and the likelihood that that speculation will continue and potentially lead to an unnecessary negative impact on the university’s operations.”

On top of the investigation into allegations levelled at Rathjen, Lander was also investigating the manner in which the university dealt with those allegations.

“The university has committed to providing full cooperation with my investigation,” Lander said.

He did not comment further about the nature of the allegations but assured that his investigation centred not on corruption but on potential issues of serious or systemic misconduct and maladministration.

In an email about the announcement of ICAC’s investigation to the university community, deputy chancellor Catherine Branson said: “While it is natural for us to want to know more about what is happening, we need to remember that this is a matter for the ICAC.

“As you will know, the law places restraints on what can be said about an ICAC investigation. This is why the university is not able to comment further.”

Branson said the university would continue to deliver high-quality teaching and research and added that she has full confidence in the leadership of acting vice-chancellor Professor Mike Brooks and his senior management team.

In his statement, Lander issued a reminder that news of the investigation should not be construed as finding that any person involved has engaged in impropriety.

“Given the legislation under which I operate is geared toward investigations of these kind being conducted in private I am not in a position to offer further public comment until such time as my investigation has concluded,” he added.

News that Rathjen was taking leave broke the day after chancellor Kevin Scarce informed the university’s council that he would bring forward the end of his term, cutting it six months short.

Speculation about the leadership disarray narrowed in on strain stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, something the university denied via a statement.

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