Caledonian is guilty of bullying

December 25, 1998

A hard-hitting report has cleared Glasgow Caledonian University of academic malpractice and falsifying examination results, but has uncovered serious academic lapses and management bullying and intimidation of staff.

Principal Ian Johnston, appointed four months ago after his predecessor, Stan Mason, was fired for gross misconduct, pledged a new culture of openness in a bid to ensure no comparable problems arose in future.

The Darby inquiry found a climate in which the senior executive did not welcome criticism and bad news, Dr Johnston said. The difficulties might not have arisen if staff had been more confident that their complaints would be considered seriously.

The inquiry, chaired by John Darby, former assistant principal of Napier University, was set up after whistleblower John O'Dowd, a former GCU academic, sent a confidential letter to the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council about courses in radiography and orthoptics.

He alleged a breach of rules in allowing a cohort of radiography students to sit an exam three times. While Darby rejected this, it warned the university to take "little comfort" from the fact that academic standards had been maintained. Lapses from good academic and managerial practice had put standards and the university's reputation at risk.

The university was also alleged to have modularised its orthoptics course without sufficient regard for the external validator, the Council for Professions Supplementary to Medicine. The CPSM orthoptics board withdrew accreditation in 1995, but Darby found the university failed to tell students and new applicants, despite a possible loss of eligibility for state registration.

Mike Hall, CPSM registrar, said the university was free to apply to run a new orthoptics course, like any other body, but the CPSM would pay particular attention to the details.

Dr Johnston said the university had now adopted a whistleblowing procedure, a complaints procedure and a grievance procedure.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department said: "The department supports the university's decision to make the Darby report publicly available, to implement changes in practice and procedure as a result and its desire to now strive to regain its reputation as one of our leading new universities."

* The university is awaiting the written judgment of an industrial tribunal which ruled that Stan Mason had been unfairly dismissed. It called for his reinstatement by a 2-1 majority.

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