Natfhe backs 'victim'

December 10, 1999

'Natfhe is supporting lecturer Mark Challinor in a claim for compensation after he was selected for redundancy having blown the whistle'

Higher education's first tribunal case under new laws to protect whistleblowers from victimisation has been launched by lecturers' union Natfhe.

Natfhe will invoke the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which came into force earlier this year, in an employment tribunal case lodged against Derby University. Natfhe is supporting lecturer Mark Challinor in a claim for compensation after he was selected for redundancy having blown the whistle on alleged dumbing down at Derby's franchised operations in Israel.

Whistleblowers revealed in June that Derby had been admitting students to its business degree courses in Israel without the agreed minimum entry requirements. Mr Challinor, a member of Derby's business school staff who helped set up the courses, complained to his line manager that Derby's franchise partner in Israel, Inter College, was ignoring an agreement to admit only students who had the Israeli matriculation certificate, the bagrut.

"Our (collaborative arrangements) document clearly sates that a full bagrut is the minimum entry requirement," Mr Challinor said in the memo, obtained by The THES. Mr Challinor, who has never spoken to The THES, said in the memo that exemptions should be made only for mature students without a full bagrut after proper access or foundation courses, on an exceptional basis.

Natfhe head of higher education Tom Wilson confirmed that the complaint against Derby had been lodged with the employment tribunal. He also reiterated that Natfhe was seeking an independent inquiry into revelations about entry requirements.

Last week Derby won a temporary reprieve from the Israeli regulating authority, the Council for Higher Education, which had been withholding the university's licence to operate in Israel until Derby could show that it conformed with tough Israeli laws designed to clamp down on unscrupulous provision. The CHE said: "The CHE decided to grant a temporary licence (until November 30, 2000) to the extension of Derby University. The licence is conditional, as the extension must prove that it fully implements all the conditions set in the law, as well as those obligations that the extension, as well as Derby University, committed themselves to." These included an agreement that teaching contact hours at the extension must be identical to those in Derby, and that the extension must bring "more lecturers from the parent institution".

Derby said it would be inappropriate to comment on Mr Challinor's legal proceedings, but that it was "delighted" at the CHE's decision to extend its licence. "It is a vote of confidence in the university's operations in Israel."

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