It looks set to be one of the most high-profile — and embarrassing — personal disputes the usually tranquil world of education research has ever seen.
Geoff Whitty, the director of the Institute of Education, is set to face public allegations of sex discrimination from one of his most senior ­colleagues.
Loreto Loughran was pro-director of the IoE until she walked out last month in protest against her alleged treatment after 13 years’ service. She has confirmed through her lawyers that she has issued employment tribunal proceedings against Professor Whitty for both sex discrimination and constructive dismissal.
Dr Loughran worked closely with Professor Whitty for the seven years during which the professor has led the IoE, in her role as pro-director, as well as in her previous role as academic registrar.
In a statement released to The Times Higher this week, Stephen Taylor, of solicitors Coyle White Devine, who is representing Dr Loughran, said: “She has issued a claim in the employment tribunal against both the Institute of Education and its director, Professor Geoffrey Whitty, alleging constructive dismissal and sex discrimination.
“Dr Loughran, who was the pro-director (international) and previously the academic registrar and deputy secretary, walked out of the institute on May 11 after over 13 years’ service. No further comment will be made at present.”
The IoE said in a statement: “The Institute of Education can confirm that Dr Loughran resigned from her position as pro-director (international) on Friday, May 11, having brought an unsuccessful grievance against the director of the institute. Subsequently she has commenced proceedings in an employment tribunal.
“Dr Loughran’s grievance, together with a subsequent ap­peal, were heard and dealt with in a comprehensive and professional manner in accordance with the institute’s policies and procedures. Both the grievance and the appeal were dismissed.
“The institute is confident that Dr Loughran was given a full and fair opportunity for her grievance to be considered and regrets that she chose to leave her position at the institute rather than taking up the offer of mediation that was available to her.
“Dr Loughran’s long-standing experience in international relations in higher education will be missed by her former colleagues at the institute.”
The dispute will be highly embarrassing for Professor Whitty. He is currently a specialist adviser to the Education and Skills Select Committee, chair of the British Council’s Education and Training Advisory Committee, president of the College of Teachers and president of Bera, the British Educational Research Association.
He has directed a number of Economic and Social Research Council-funded research projects on the impact of education policies, such as the assisted-places scheme, city technology colleges and changes in initial teacher education.
The 105-year-old IoE is one of the world’s most prestigious centres for research, teacher training, higher degrees and consultancy in education and education-related areas of social science.