Unjustified rebuke

July 19, 2002

I supervised Dennis Foster's part-time PhD thesis studies from October 1997 until July 1999 (Whistleblowers, THES , July 12). Dr Foster failed his PhD at Exeter University, but subsequently achieved a doctorate elsewhere, largely on the basis of the work completed between 1997 and 1999.

Lord Irvine said that Dr Foster was not given proper supervision and that Exeter did not provide adequate supervision.

Although I was sole supervisor for Dr Foster over nearly two years, I have never been informed of his case nor have I been asked formally to comment on his claims. How could Lord Irvine comment so authoritatively on the nature and quality of supervision without ever having asked the principal supervisor for his view? Was he aware that Dr Foster frequently telephoned me at home, sometimes almost every day, and that I routinely answered his calls?

The university has apologised to Dr Foster for the way he was treated. A similar apology might be owed to members of university staff who, forced to make the best out of difficult situations and with scarce resources, find themselves party to a rebuke from the lord chancellor without once being formally consulted.

Name and address withheld

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