Queen takes Leicester to task

October 8, 1999

The Queen has delivered a stinging rebuke to Leicester University for failing to take "due regard" of her legal role as its arbiter of disputes. She also criticised the university for "discourtesy".

The Queen expressed her anger that Leicester took more than eight months to respond to a staff member's complaint, made to her in her capacity as visitor last year. Although she referred the complaint to the internal grievance procedure, she criticised the university for causing a year's delay.

In a letter to complainant Andrew Colman, a reader in psychology who is involved a long-running dispute over his career development, the clerk to the Privy Council, representing the Queen, said: "The visitor is mindful of the fact that this case has now been proceeding for some considerable time and that the major cause of the delay was the university's failure to provide an answer to your petition in a reasonable time.

"The visitor has asked me to say that she strongly deprecates the university's delay, which she regards as a failure to give due regard to her role under the charter [of the university] and a discourtesy to her."

Leicester said this week that it had "immediately accepted the visitor's censure" when it first received the criticism in July this year. "The university extended its sincere apologies to her in a letter ... together with an assurance that there was no intention whatsoever to show any discourtesy."

This is not the first time the university has been rebuked over its handling of Dr Colman's dispute. Three months ago the Data Protection Registrar found it had breached data protection laws in failing to deal properly with Dr Colman's request for information held on him.

Some data were not provided until ten months after the first request. The university was also criticised for passing private and personal data on Dr Colman to the head of department, one of his main adversaries in his dispute.

The university said that the delay in responding to the visitor was a result of the detailed nature of Dr Colman's criticisms, which "required considerable research and investigation in order to present the university's full case".

Dr Colman petitioned the Queen in June 1998, alleging that the university's procedures for promoting staff were flawed, and had been breached. He has been trying to apply for a chair since 1992, when he was told he had a strong case for promotion. But it is understood that he has been denied promotions when candidates who ranked lower on the university's scoring system were successful.

He asked the Queen to investigate "whether our procedures are fair, and whether, even as they are, they are being adhered to".

Despite the delay, the Queen ruled that Dr Colman's concerns should be addressed through the established grievance procedures, as the visitor "should not be invoked until all the avenues provided for under the university's own procedures have been exhausted".

She rejected Dr Colman's argument that he should veto the internal mechanisms as they were flawed. Dr Colman's grievance case is due to be heard later this month or early in November.

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