Oxford boosts equality drive after dismissal payout

August 12, 2005

Oxford University's colleges have rushed to beef up their equal opportunities policies after an expensive out-of-court settlement of an unfair dismissal case in which Keble College was accused of racial discrimination, it was claimed this week.

Diamond Versi, who received what is believed to be a six-figure settlement offered by the college before an appeal hearing last month, told The Times Higher he believed that his case had forced the university and its colleges to take racial discrimination seriously for the first time.

He said: "One of the positive things that has come out of my case is that every Oxford college has quickly put in place equal opportunities schemes that should have been there a long time ago and have all appointed a diversity officer. That was long overdue."

Mr Versi, a Zanzibari Asian, was Keble's chief accountant until April last year, when he lost his job after being accused of fraud by the college's bursar, Roger Boden.

The college found no evidence of fraud and dropped the allegation. But Mr Versi was subsequently made redundant as part of a restructuring. The tribunal called the restructuring a "sham" designed to remove Mr Versi.

An employment tribunal last year concluded that Mr Versi had been unfairly dismissed and had suffered racial discrimination.

In a statement on its pre-appeal settlement, Keble, which denies acting unfairly or unlawfully, said it had taken "a number of important new steps" to embed equal opportunities at the college.

It said the settlement was "a positive step, wholly consistent with the opinion of the college and Mr Boden that the inferences drawn by the employment tribunal, which led to the finding of race discrimination, were not merited".

The university is about to publish a report on its race relations policies.

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