Readers' reactions

September 11, 1998

Last week in The THES ...

John Griffith argued that universities have been tardy in setting right abuses of power - bullying, corruption, nepotism and cheating. The answer, he suggests, is an independent ombudsman. THES readers mostly agreed with Griffith.

M. C. Morehen Director of personnel, University of Nottingham

The sector should have an ombudsman but only where matters of academic freedom are contended, and only when the provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, the Whistleblowers Act, do not give protection.

Universities waste time wading through cumbersome grievance procedures designed more than a decade ago to protect academic freedom, when the issue is often a straight-forward matter of conduct, capacity or redundancy.

Name and address supplied

The issue is not the "right to manage"; it is the use of bullying and oppressive methods to resolve problems caused by poor management.

Forced "early retirements" en masse, such as those at Nottingham last year, demoralise staff. Selection methods were crude, unfair pressure was applied: staff selected were induced to accept by the threat that the whole group would be made redundant if any one of them refused to retire. At present there is no effective appeal against such practices.

C. C. Floyd Brighton

The evidence from current cases indicates that both staff and students require an "accessible, cheap and independent legal adjudication" on decisions made about them. This should not be an extension of peer review cronyism or a cheap "bolt-on" to the Quality Assurance Agency/auditors, but ideally, a small claims-style judicial review court with teeth.

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