Cambridge University has suffered a defeat in the High Court at the hands of lecturer Gill Evans, who claims the university's procedures for promoting academic staff are "unfair and secretive".
The court granted Dr Evans leave this week for a judicial review of Cambridge's promotions procedures. Dr Evans had claimed that Cambridge had breached its own statutes with a promotions system that lacked accountability. Mr Justice Sedley has now ruled that the university has a case to answer.
"I'm very, very happy," said Dr Evans, who has been a lecturer at Cambridge for 17 years. "It is a very sensible and fair judgment."
After granting leave, Mr Justice Sedley decided to "stay" any further court proceedings, effectively putting Dr Evans's case on ice until she re-applies to the court. This would avoid questioning the last round of promotions, and would give the university an opportunity to make changes to its procedures.
Mr Justice Sedley said that if Cambridge completed a further round of "applications and appointments without curing what I have held to be the arguable deficiencies in the procedure" her action could proceed. "I do not want this to be regarded as a sword of Damocles held over the head of the university," said the judge. "It has every right to take its own course and to defend that course if the stay is then lifted. Equally it may wish, by continuing upon its changed course or by further modifying it, to put itself beyond such criticisms."
Dr Evans said she hoped to avoid further action. "The judge has given the university the chance and the time to get its house in order," she said. "If they change things voluntary and quickly, I may not need to meet them in court again."
Stephen Fleet, registrar at Cambridge, said that the judgment would have to be studied "with considerable care", but that the university's changes to its procedures already met some of the criticisms. "Our procedures are under review anyhow," he said. "We had already anticipated areas in need of improvement. Whether we've anticipated them fully or not remains to be seen."