Imperial stands by Alice Gast after ‘bullying’ probe

London institution says it has ‘fully accepted’ recommendations of inquiry into senior staff behaviour

December 7, 2020
Imperial College London
Source: iStock

Imperial College London has said it still has confidence in Alice Gast’s leadership abilities, despite an investigation into accusations of bullying by senior management.

The university commissioned an independent inquiry after allegations were made about senior colleagues’ conduct, including the president, Professor Gast, over the summer.  

Jane McNeill QC was asked to conduct the investigation. She interviewed a number of staff members and made a series of recommendations, which Imperial said it fully accepted.

In a letter sent to staff last week, John Allan, Imperial’s chair of council, said that “although this has been an uncomfortable process, it is a willingness to confront the most difficult challenges that distinguishes great organisations”.

He said that he was “more confident than ever that Imperial has the right leadership. Alice Gast and her team continue to do an incredible job. More than that – and as Alice is the first to say – this institution’s greatness is built on the talent, hard work and brilliance of its people at all levels.”

Professor Gast has been president of the institution since 2014 and is one of the Russell Group’s highest paid vice-chancellors, although she agreed to a 20 per cent pay cut at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Allan said he was “glad that Imperial was able not only to conduct a full and impartial investigation into allegations about its most senior staff, but to come out of that process stronger and better equipped to meet its mission”.

He said all staff who had been interviewed had been given assurances that what they had said would remain anonymous and that they “would experience no detriment as a result” of what they had said. The report will therefore remain confidential to protect their identities, he said.

In a written question to parliament on 24 November, Alex Sobel, Labour MP for Leeds North West, asked “what steps the Office for Students had taken in response” to the report, “which found that bullying had taken place under the president and chief financial officer at Imperial”.

In response, the universities minister, Michelle Donelan, said the OfS was considering the information it had received and that the regulator could not comment on individual cases.

An Imperial spokesman said that “in line with our procedures, we commissioned an independent QC-led inquiry concerning alleged behaviours by senior staff. The report from this inquiry, which is confidential, made recommendations which the college has fully accepted and is implementing. We will not comment further on this personnel matter.”

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Reader's comments (3)

Nearly six years and we're no further forward, neither in appalling institutional failings nor cynical obfuscation when they get found out
Having studied there I’m not surprise.
May the ghost of Stefan Grimm haunt your dreams and turn them into nightmares in perpetuity. Unfortunately, the senior management at Imperial, or most UK universities for that matter, lack any morals, a conscience, and a sense of duty and care (as they are driven by financials and spurious metrics/KPIs). Hence, most of them will have a good night's sleep no matter what.