Academics see red over principal's 'retirement'

The University of Abertay Dundee has lost a pro vice-chancellor and a fifth member of its court during two weeks of turmoil after it announced the retirement of its suspended principal.

July 14, 2011

Bernard King, who was suspended in February, denied earlier this month that he had retired and accused Abertay of behaving in an "unfair and unlawful" manner.

Since then there have been a series of departures alongside accusations from academics unhappy with Professor King's treatment.

The latest departure was announced this week, when the university confirmed that Rositsa Bateson, a pro vice-chancellor for recruitment and student experience, was leaving to "pursue other interests".

Leaked letters obtained by Times Higher Education show that a rift has existed since last November between senior academics and the university court, apparently over whether Professor King should retire.

Professor Bateson was one of 11 professors who signed a letter in November warning the court that Abertay risked "reputation damage" over a decision about Professor King's length of appointment.

Last week, Bob Doak, a director at WL Gore, which manufactures Gore-Tex fabric, stood down from the 25-strong university court. His resignation is the fifth since Professor King was suspended in February "pending investigation of a number of issues that have been brought to the (chair of the court's) attention".

In a further development on 12 July, Abertay confirmed that Professor King's deputy, Nicholas Terry, had been suspended in January because of a secretary's accusations that he had ordered her to monitor Professor King's activities amid concerns that the principal was "plotting" against the court, and because of accusations from Professor Bateson of "intimidation".

The university reported that an "independent expert" had investigated the matter and found no evidence supporting the allegations against Professor Terry. It said that the inquiry had included interviews with more than 30 people and the examination of "a substantial amount of documentation".

Professor Terry's suspension was subsequently lifted, and he is now acting vice-chancellor.

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