Sixty-five and out at King's

August 25, 2011

I am grateful to Times Higher Education for having published and the signatories for having written the letter criticising the determination of King's College London to force age-based retirement upon me ("Age-related vision loss", 4 August). Unfortunately, King's has rejected my appeal and the many letters of support it received from international scholars who have collaborated with me as director of the King's Visualisation Lab (KVL).

At the end of this month, King's is enforcing one final "cull" of staff who had the misfortune to turn 65 in the course of the past year, dismissing them under the final transitional provisions of the now defunct and widely discredited "default retirement age" procedures: when announcing their repeal, Edward Davey, the employment relations minister, rightly condemned them as an "outdated form of age discrimination". Neither King's nor any other UK employer will ever again be able to enforce this sort of age-based retirement - much less require loyal and productive scholars to petition for retention after 40 years of life and energy devoted to the academy.

As the authors of "Age-related vision loss" observed, the wide-ranging activities of KVL have made a significant contribution to "world-leading work" in the exploration and exploitation of virtual-reality modelling as the basis for hugely exciting research initiatives. This work, which placed King's prominently within the rapidly expanding area of digital humanities, one specifically targeted for support by both national and international funding, is now in severe jeopardy.

It is regrettable that King's managers have not taken to heart principal Rick Trainor's assertion in his commemoration oration, "What are universities for?", that we "should not forget that sometimes ideals need defending, even when particular outmoded practices do not".

Richard Beacham, Director, King's Visualisation Lab, King's College London

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