Dean Doug Gutherie

The George Washington University School of Business has fired its dean, Doug Guthrie, after the scale of a budgetary overspend came to light.

In a brief letter to faculty, the university’s provost, Steve Lerman, wrote that “fundamental differences about financial and operational performance were significant enough to warrant a change in leadership.”

Michelle Sherrard, a spokesperson for GWU, says that “it had become increasingly clear that the financial management and operational differences between the dean and the administration were too great to bridge.”

Prof Guthrie, who told the FT that internal debates at the school had been ongoing, says that he was “surprised at the suddenness” of this announcement, which brings his three-year tenure as dean to an abrupt close.

According to the GW Hatchet, the university’s student newspaper, the business school overspent by around $13m in the past academic year when a suite of online degrees have been introduced. Four masters programmes – including the Digital Community Online MBA – were launched with the school’s technology partner, Pearson, the global education group that owns the Financial Times.

Though the school was not able to verify the extent of the overspend, Ms Sherrard confirms that “more money was spent in the [business school] than was budgeted.”

However, Prof Guthrie says that it was well known within the school that there would be a budget deficit this year as a result of developing classroom technology. “This investment is part of a long-term plan for the school,” he says, adding that the business school nonetheless returned a net contribution to the university.

The development of premium online degrees integrating advanced classroom technology has been a focus of Prof Guthrie’s deanship. “Higher education is in a tough spot right now, and resources are constrained . . . but there’s a lot of innovation and opportunities,” he says.

Writing in the Financial Times this month, he advocated the transformational opportunities offered by “the marriage of big data with online platforms to create a customised learning experience”.

As well as losing the deanship, Prof Guthrie’s role as vice-president for GWU’s operations in China – where the Washington DC-based university has an ambitious growth strategy – has been rescinded. He remains a tenured professor of international business and management in the business school.

Before moving to GWU, Prof Guthrie – who is an expert on China – worked at NYU Stern School of Business between 2005 and 2010, during which time he also held visiting positions at Harvard Business School and Insead.

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