The dean of Nottingham Law School professor Michael Gunn has quit, leaving a hole in senior management at a crucial time in the school’s development.

Nottingham is just months away from a tie-up with US professional education giant Kaplan to launch the new base in London that it lost to BPP Law School in 1997.

Gunn has left Nottingham to become pro vice chancellor at Derby University in charge of learning and teaching development.

Nottingham’s senior pro vice chancellor Professor Peter Jones claimed the loss would not impact the Nottingham-Kaplan venture.

“Michael is the classic academic dean. He is a very able and very professional academic, but the drivers of the London project with Kaplan have always been myself and [executive director] Phil Nott, and that team is absolutely in place and has always been in place,” said Jones.

Jones said Gunn’s appointment at Derby marked a climb to a new rung up the academic career ladder.

“When you appoint able and ambitious people then you are going to applaud them when they make the next step in their career,” he said.

Gunn’s former deputy Gabriella Costello becomes the acting dean and is a contender for the full-time post but headhunters Odgers Ray & Berndtson have been charged with finding a permanent replacement.

Jones said that Nottingham is interested in candidates not only from academia but also those from in-house roles, the bar, and solicitors with management as well as practice experience.

He said: “They don’t have to be from the magic circle, as we know there are some excellent niche firms out there.”

Nothingham plans to shortlist interviewees by the end of October, and to have made a decision by late November.

Gunn joined Nottingham in 1997 from De Montford University, where he was professor of mental health law. Prior to that he was head of law at Westminster University.