Australia’s leading university has left for Africa amid mounting criticism over how its former professor left the country.
The Australian Institute of Education announced this week that Professor Andrew Langer, a renowned astrophysicist and former director of the CSIRO, would leave the institution next year.
The announcement was made by the university’s president, John Graham, who said he hoped to return to Australia next year to complete a master’s degree in the field of astronomy and cosmology.
The university, which is known as the flagship of the nation’s universities, said it had been “extremely saddened” by the news and said it was “in the process of reviewing our current arrangements”.
Langer has not commented on the move.
But Langer’s departure was the latest in a series of departures at the Australian Institute for the Sciences, which has seen many former academics leave in recent years.
The institute, which includes the universities of Adelaide, Newcastle and Newcastle, has been criticised by some for the way it has handled the disappearance of academics, including former research assistants, in the past.
“The Australian Research Council is deeply troubled by the events of the past few weeks,” it said in a statement.
“Its board is also deeply concerned by the lack of any clarity about the circumstances surrounding Professor Langer ‘s departure.”
The institute has been hit with a string of allegations about academics being paid to leave, including one that the university had paid for a PhD candidate’s hotel room in the United Arab Emirates after the university was in the process to hire a foreign student.
Professor Langer was a former president of the Australian Astronomical Society, an organisation that publishes a quarterly newsletter for members and is widely regarded as one of the country’s top academic journals.
He also has been a member of the Australia Council of Academies and a member and former chair of the Department of Physics at the University of Melbourne.
But a number of academics at the university have expressed concern about Langer leaving, including a former science adviser who said Langer had “instructed” him to leave in February 2017.
The ABC understands that Langer resigned from the department in February after being forced out by a decision by the department to fire him over allegations he had engaged in improper conduct.
He said he had no comment to make on the issue.
Langer had a number work-related relationships at the institute.
The university has not said what they were.
Lander left the university after two years, but was re-appointed as director of research and development in June.
It is understood he would be re-hired as a lecturer in the Australian Research Institute.