Academic takes Bristol to tribunal over ‘grant income sacking’

Alison Hayman says that she is ‘not incapable’ and her treatment was ‘unjust’

July 15, 2015

A former lecturer at the University of Bristol has lodged an employment tribunal case against her dismissal for allegedly not securing enough grant income.

Alison Hayman had been a lecturer in connective tissue biology since 2000 before being dismissed last October. In a statement written for her reinstatement campaign – whose associated petition has attracted 1,800 signatures – she says that she was happy to remain a lecturer but was required to apply for promotion when she reached the top of the pay scale for lecturers.

She says that her application was turned down four years running, essentially because she had failed to secure “significant” grant income. This, she says, was her managers’ interpretation of the official progression criterion of demonstrating “evidence of ability to design, secure funding for, plan and implement research programmes”.

She says that she submitted about 20 grant applications between 2010 and 2014, some of which were deemed to be internationally competitive, but secured only £5,000.

Dr Hayman, who was submitted to the 2014 research excellence framework, told Times Higher Education that her main motivation for taking Bristol to the employment tribunal was to “show that I am not incapable and that what has happened to me is unjust”.

She will also be “seeking compensation to mitigate the devastating effect of the financial losses resulting from my dismissal”. Her case hinges on her contention that grant-based targets have not been applied to anyone else at Bristol, and that they do not fulfil the university’s requirement that performance management criteria should be within a person’s control.

A Freedom of Information request by the University and College Union, which is supporting her, revealed that 173 senior lecturers or readers on the same “pathway” as Dr Hayman were not principal investigators on a grant between 2010 and 2014, compared with 243 who were.

Last year, Imperial College London professor Stefan Grimm committed suicide after being told that he was not bringing in enough grant income. In the most recent such revelation, last week it was revealed that Queen’s University Belfast has adopted grant income targets.

A spokeswoman for Bristol said that the institution “does not set targets on grant income for individual academics”, but was unable to comment on Dr Hayman’s case due to her legal challenge, which will be heard in the early autumn.


Print headline: Bristol faces tribunal over ‘grant income firing’

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Reader's comments (1)

I sincerely hope she wins and that this case gets attention. It is a really bad development that universities are essentially exporting their judgement to 3rd parties by relying on success in grants brought in. Everybody knows that getting in research funding is to a substantial amount luck and the willingness to follow fads. Universities should not be allowed to use 3rd party judgement in their own decisions about the value and merit of researcher's scientific contributions.


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