Principal's wife gets her job on merit alone

November 4, 1994

An Edinburgh University inquiry has dismissed allegations that a post was "conjured up" for Sheena Sutherland, wife of the university principal, Stewart Sutherland, as a precondition of his accepting the principalship.

An anonymous letter circulating round the campus, thought to be from an academic, claimed that an advertised post in medical microbiology had been improperly created for Dr Sutherland, a senior virologist in a public health laboratory in London.

Dr Sutherland was an applicant for the part-time post, but the appointments procedure was halted by acting principal Michael Anderson pending an inquiry by the university rector, Malcolm Macleod.

Dr Macleod reported to the university court that Dr and Professor Sutherland's actions were "beyond reproach" and that the allegations had no basis in fact.

But he and his inquiry team of two external court members recommended that the university lay down clear and explicit rules.

Martin Lowe, the university secretary, said written policy would now be drawn up. "I think it is important to make clear that this university, unlike some others, is not automatically prepared to offer employment to the partner of a person whom it wishes to appoint," he said.

"It is, however, prepared to try to be of assistance, but neither at the expense of creating unnecessary posts nor of entertaining applications for jobs which are not publicly advertised and are not filled by competitive application on the grounds of relevant experience and ability."

Following the inquiry the post had been offered to, and accepted by, Dr Sutherland. The selection committee included independent medical experts.

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