Ageism claim over mandatory PhDs settled

Architecture lecturer Stephen Games feels ‘vindicated’ after agreement

December 10, 2015
PhD lettered on book spine

A lecturer who claimed he suffered age discrimination when his department made it mandatory for all new staff to have a PhD has agreed an out-of-court settlement with his former employer.

Stephen Games, 63, an hourly paid lecturer at the University of Kent’s School of Architecture, began legal action after he failed to make the shortlist for one of several full-time posts advertised by the school because he had no doctorate.

Having an absolute requirement of a PhD for selection amounted to indirect ageism because very few older graduates in his field had doctorates, which placed him at a disadvantage to younger applicants, he argued.

His case was initially rejected by an employment tribunal in July 2013, which accepted the university’s argument that Mr Games had had ample opportunity to gain a PhD by use of previous publications.

But an appeal court later ruled in November 2014 that the original judgment “erred in law”, provided “no reasoning” for its decision, and a new hearing on the alleged age discrimination should be heard.

Mr Games and Kent have now agreed a settlement out of court, which is to remain confidential.

However, Mr Games told Times Higher Education that he felt “vindicated” in pursuing the case over several years by the settlement.

He said his case highlighted the rigidity of certain parts of academia that appeared to value formal qualifications, such as a PhD, above experience, talent and other capabilities held by staff.

“Architecture is a practical subject where the educational criteria are laid down by the Architects Registration Board, which prizes diversity and experience, so, according to the profession, I was well qualified to teach,” said Mr Games.

“But when architecture is placed in an academic milieu, people like me cannot score as highly as less experienced staff who have academic training,” he added.

The implications of his case are “very worrying”, he continued.

“There must be occasions where the educational system can be broad enough to have staff with formal qualifications, but also those with a breadth of experience,” he said.

“But when it was put to the test, there is no method for valuing these things – it was only able to validate something that came from its own system.”

The University of Kent declined to comment on the matter.

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