Court reinstates sacked tutor

April 12, 2002

An Australian academic whose sacking last year sparked an international boycott of the University of Wollongong was reinstated last week after a court ruled he had been illegally dismissed.

Microbiologist Ted Steele was sacked by Wollongong vice-chancellor Gerard Sutton for claiming that he had been ordered to raise the marks of two honours students. He made the comments during a debate over whether universities applied lower standards to fee-paying foreign students.

Professor Sutton said Dr Steele had made knowingly false allegations that had brought the university into disrepute and sacked him. Unions around the world condemned the sacking as an attack on academic freedom and imposed a boycott on Wollongong.

The National Tertiary Education Union took the case to court, which found that Professor Sutton had failed to follow misconduct procedures. The university appealed but lost - the court upheld the earlier finding that Professor Sutton had acted illegally.

The court also ordered the university to pay the union's legal costs - estimated at more than A$40,000 (£15,000) - as well as its own.

Professor Sutton has denied he has any intention of resigning. But he said the university accepted the court's ruling that Dr Steele should be reinstated. He said he was offering the union a number of options as to how this would be done. Negotiations are continuing.

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