Comedian’s appointment as chancellor blocked by angry academics

UPDATE: Griff Rhys Jones withdraws his name from consideration, after university court members express disapproval


Griff Rhys Jones has told vice-chancellor Professor Colin Riordan he ‘does not want to be further considered’ for the role of Chancellor.

Following controversy over his planned appointment, the Welsh comedian has decided it is best to turn down the role.

In a letter to the vice-chancellor, he wrote: “It may well be that the council wants to re-offer the post to the incumbent, Sir Martin Evans.

“Sir Martin may decide to take it or step aside. I feel, however, that my presence only makes this a more complicated process for everyone concerned.

“I can’t say that I am offering my resignation. I haven’t yet been appointed. But I do not want to be further considered for this post.”

Cardiff University cancelled the appointment of Griff Rhys Jones as the new chancellor, after concerns were raised that it would damage the university’s reputation.

An announcement confirming the appointment of the television personality and comedian was due on April 10th, but was delayed after academics learned that the current chancellor had not been offered the opportunity to continue in the role.

Academics raised concerns about the TV comedian's appointment

University court members raised concerns about the TV comedian’s appointment

Professor Sir Martin Evans, the current chancellor, won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2007 for his breakthrough in stem cell research. He was the first scientist to identify embryonic stem cells that could be adapted for an array of medical purposes.

Given these impressive credentials, it seems some members of the university court, a body of around 100 academics which scrutinises the role of the smaller executive council, were unhappy with the decision to appoint Mr Jones.

Sir Martin Evans revolutionising research

Sir Martin Evans is a Nobel prize-winning scientist

Professor Brian J Ford, in a letter to the vice-chancellor, stated: “to say that [Sir Martin Evans] has been peremptorily replaced by a comedian known to a restricted British TV audience runs the risk of showing us as parochial and out of the league of major universities.”

“Griff Rhys Jones is amusing, witty and an excellent comedian, though not a single person in my discussions has seen any relevance of those admirable qualities to the position of chancellor of Cardiff University.”

Although university rules state that any chancellor can only be appointed for a single term, three former holders of the post have held it for longer. It is confusion over this point that led to Sir Martin Evans not being offered the chance to be reappointed.

University court members were surprised and enraged when they found out that Sir Martin wasn’t offered the opportunity to serve again. In his letter to the vice-chancellor Professor Ford has stated that whoever was responsible for the decision “should not remain in office”.

Griff Rhys Jones, best known for his partnership with the late Mel Smith, said: “I was very honoured to be asked to be Chancellor, because I’m conscious that I’m not a Nobel prize-winner but I really believe in the benefit of education.”

“I am really pleased to be associated with the University. I was awarded an honorary doctorate about four years ago and I’ve been patron of the institute for about three years.”