Anger at Brunel over recruits' family ties

August 26, 2005

Lecturers' leaders have reacted furiously to the discovery that Brunel University has appointed two close relatives of senior staff as lecturers after making 45 academics redundant.

The Times Higher has established that the daughter of Linda Thomas, pro vice-chancellor, and the niece of education professor Roy Evans have both been given posts at the university's School of Sport and Education.

The university said that the two fixed-term appointments were entirely fair and transparent and that both were based on merit.

But the Association of University Teachers, which is boycotting the university as part of a dispute over redundancies, has hit out .

Justine Stephens, head of campaigns at the AUT, said: "Given Brunel's record over the past year, nothing should surprise us, but this episode takes the biscuit."

She said that AUT members had been thrown on the scrapheap and that it could appear that the two recruits had been appointed based on their family tree rather than their research.

"Whatever the truth about these posts, Brunel has placed these two new members of staff in an impossible position and created yet another PR disaster.

"It is little wonder that AUT has had thousands of academics supporting its greylisting," she said.

Brunel's public relations consultant said that Professor Thomas, who until July 1 was head of the school where the appointments were made, and Professor Evans had both "immediately declared their interest and relation to the candidates".

"Neither academic sat on the interview panels where there was a declared interest. To ensure due process was followed, the head of school conducted a thorough review of the appointments and was satisfied with the decision of the interview panels and the transparency of the process."

She said that both appointments were made after Professor Thomas left her post as head of school, and were reviewed by the new head, Susan Capel.

Brunel announced this month that its programme "to reduce the number of non-research active staff" had finished. Forty-three academics have taken voluntary redundancy and two have been made compulsorily redundant.

In a full-page advert in The Times Higher in July, the university said that "changes to the research assessment exercise mean research funding will be concentrated on a smaller number of institutions".

It said: "The university's council is committed to replacing non-research active staff with research-active staff, and has created an additional 30 research posts."

Brunel's spokeswoman said that neither of the two new recruits would be counted among these 30 posts. She said: "Both candidates have been appointed on temporary contracts, one of which is part time. One candidate, who has an excellent research profile, was appointed to replace an academic who accepted voluntary redundancy on the basis that they were not research active.

"The second candidate was appointed to deliver a Teacher Training Agency course following the resignation of a member of staff. The university will continue to recruit permanent, research-active staff."

Brunel has refused to identify either staff member.

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