A  Scottish university has repaid more than £100,000 after it was found to have failed to make a proper assessment of value for money when a former principal was awarded a six-figure settlement.

The University of Aberdeen confirmed £119,000 has been handed over following a review by the Scottish Funding Council of the settlement agreed with Professor Sir Ian Diamond.

Sir Ian, who first revealed his intention to retire in August 2017, received £610,00 in remuneration for 2017-18, as well as a £60,000 payment for “outplacement support”.

The SFC said it had decided to review the payment “because the financial statements did not appear to accord with our understanding of the principal’s retirement and we were not satisfied with the university’s response to our initial inquiries”.

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It found that when it came to approving the terms of the settlement agreement there was no “documented assessment of value for money”.

The SFC report added: “There is evidence that, if a proper and documented assessment had been undertaken, better-value options would have been identified.”

The University of Aberdeen paid for two principals in 2018-19, it was noted, with Sir Ian on “gardening leave” while his successor was in place.

The SFC said: “By defining the former principal’s ‘formal’ notice date as the date immediately preceding both the successor principal taking up his post and the former principal moving to a 12-month period of ‘gardening leave’, the university incurred the cost of two principals over the 2018-19 financial year.

“In addition, over the 2017-18 financial year, the principal received his full salary while having significantly fewer duties and responsibilities than those constituting the full role of principal, and we have seen no evidence that the value for money consequences of that arrangement were assessed.”

The university stressed it had “co-operated fully” with the review and had accepted its main findings, as well as having repaid the money to the SFC.

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Esther Roberton, senior governor at the university, said it would “reflect closely on the SFC’s suggestion that the university may wish to consider repaying additional monies or donating to a university learning-related activity”.

An internal review of governance is being carried out, she added.

Ms Roberton said: “The SFC review reports on decisions made three years ago and, while we acknowledge the report findings, the university has moved on under the leadership of the new principal, the new senior vice-principal, and myself as senior governor, just elected last year.”

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Higher education minister Richard Lochhead said it was “clearly unacceptable that the University of Aberdeen did not meet its grant conditions, nor the highest standards of transparency that we expect of organisations which benefit from public funds”.

He said: “The report finds that payments were made to Professor Diamond without appropriate approvals and without documented assessment of value for money.

“I do not believe the impact should be borne by the student or staff bodies and I therefore urge the university to consider whether it can recoup these funds.”