Establishment fall guy

May 19, 2011

Those who were colleagues when Mike Fitzgerald was my deputy at Coventry Polytechnic may be surprised at my writing in his support ("Back from the brink", 12 May). However, your account of the earlier days of what is now the University of West London (a title that, it happens, Fitzgerald sought but was denied by the intervention of Brunel University) underplays three critical factors.

First, he inherited a mess. His predecessor never created a unified organisation from its component parts, which engendered animosity to Fitzgerald's attempts to bring the parts into a corporate whole.

Second, the academic trade union was living in a bygone age and sought to thwart Fitzgerald's attempts to put students first, and the problem was exacerbated by a weak board of governors that bowed to pressure rather than helping to build a progressive institution.

Finally, the Quality Assurance Agency's leadership evidently wanted to make an example of someone to divert attention from their own shortcomings.

Fitzgerald might not have got it all right, and no doubt overestimated his powers of persuasion; but he did not deserve the treatment gleefully meted out by the right-wing press and the Establishment.

Mike Goldstein, Streetly

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