College launches 'bully' probe

August 23, 1996

Governors at one of England's fastest-growing further education colleges are to conduct an independent survey into the running of the college following allegations of bullying.

A study by lecturers' union Natfhe found complaints of low staff morale, stress, increased workloads and intimidatory management style at Stoke on Trent College.

Respondents also accused the college of over-estimating student numbers.

Now the college corporation is to commission a separate survey "as part of a general contribution to staff development".

George Mardle, chairman of governors at the college, said an earlier study carried out among all college staff for an Investors in People award produced much more positive responses.

He blamed the Natfhe findings on resistance to change and lecturers fighting to keep their old contracts. "We find the whole thing quite scurrilous," he said. "There are elements which reflect certain issues of concern but they are not fairly looked at in the survey."

But Paul Mackney, Natfhe regional official, said: "There is a real cause for concern. Natfhe has conducted a number of surveys at colleges but no other has presented such a picture of arbitrary bullying and tyrannical behaviour."

Natfhe received 125 replies from college staff, more than 50 per cent of Natfhe members but only 10 per cent of all staff. The union says it carried out the survey because it had received a high level of complaints from members at the college.

Caroline Highland, assistant director of the college with responsibility for public relations, said: "The matter at the moment is with the corporation. They made the decision to conduct their own survey and staff have been notified of that."

She said the college refuted claims that student numbers had been overestimated. "Data on student enrolments is subjected to a rigorous series of checks in accordance with established college practice," she said. "This ensures that all student numbers quoted or used for claims are as accurate as possible."

The allegations come as the college, which has doubled enrolments to 49,000 in five years, reconsiders its financial position after receiving Pounds 3.4 million less than it wanted from the Further Education Funding Council.

Letters have recently gone out requesting volunteers for redundancy.

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