Age Concern takes OU to task

March 16, 2007

Age Concern has attacked the Open University over its mandatory retirement age, writes Melanie Newman.

The charity this week accused the university of hypocrisy for taking on almost 5,000 students over the age of 65 while forcing its staff to retire at that age regardless of their need or desire to work.

The impact on research staff was particularly devastating, it said, as their contracts tended to be planned three years in advance. "It can mean that from the age of 62 lecturers cannot complete their work, even if the university would consider allowing them to stay on in the future," Age Concern said.

The OU faculty of health and social care recently completed a Research on Age Discrimination project, which the charity argued was yet further evidence of hypocrisy.

Andrew Harrop, head of policy at Age Concern, said: "Academics should be employed on the basis of skills and regardless of age."

An OU spokesman said: "Any organisation has to be able to maintain a turnover rate in staff to ensure that it remains dynamic in a rapidly changing environment."

Without a retirement date, turnover would quickly decline, the spokesman said. He accused Age Concern of being "disingenuous" by referring to the specific impact of a mandatory retirement age on research staff because university policy does allow staff to continue beyond normal retirement age to complete specific tasks.

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