Now apply in writing to go on reading list

March 17, 2006

It is a potential conflict of interest every lecturer is sensitive to. You are giving a lecture course on a topic for which your book is a leading text. Do you add the book to your students' reading list?

Academics in Northampton University's School of Education were "outraged"

to find that this decision had been taken out of their hands by managers.

A memo sent last week via e-mail from Peter Wells, deputy head of the school, said that staff would have to provide an explanation for including their books on reading lists to the school's quality and approval committee, with written support from an external examiner.

Justifying the list was particularly important, the memo added, "if there is an expectation that students purchase these items".

The memo has been condemned by academics as an insult to their professional integrity.

One of them, who did not wish to be named, told The Times Higher : "The memo is clumsy, inappropriate, and undermines our judgment. This is a clear slap in the face and a mark of no confidence by the management in its staff and their professionalism."

Ron Mendel, branch secretary for lecturers' union Natfhe at Northampton, said he would lodge an official complaint about the memo.

He said: "There may be an ethical issue around members of staff assigning their own books as required texts that must be purchased. But that is only added as an afterthought. The way it has been handled is over the top."

A spokesman for Northampton said the memo "arose in the normal course of the school reviewing its internal quality assurance systems" and stemmed from the school's intention "to protect staff as far as possible from potential charges of conflict of interest".

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