300 sign up to stop lecturer's retirement

June 29, 2007

When retiring, many academics have to make do with little more than a passing gesture of goodwill from the odd student.

But London Metropolitan University lecturer Richard Kirkwood's imminent departure from academic life has been met with a petition from more than 300 students pleading with the university to allow him to keep teaching past the age of 65.

Mr Kirkwood, who has taught social sciences at what is now London Met for almost 40 years, said: "I want to continue teaching because I enjoy it, particularly the interaction with the mainly mature, ethnically diverse students in my classes. I think I'm good at it, so do my colleagues and so, obviously from this petition, do the students."

The petition, organised spontaneously by students, describes Mr Kirkwood as "an inspirational, motivational and excellent lecturer". The students added: "This university should not be voided and cleansed of older lecturers who have reached the 'forbidden age' of 65. Instead, we should all be proud and inspired to have a lecturer of his magnitude within our midst."

Despite the petition, the lecturer's request to continue working was turned down. He is now appealing to the vice-chancellor, Brian Roper. The students who organised the petition have asked to see the vice-chancellor so that they can explain why they consider Mr Kirkwood to be so valuable to the university.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said:

"Richard's case demonstrates very well why universities and colleges would be better off abandoning a default retirement age."

The Times Higher contacted London Met for comment but it did not respond.

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