Senate asked to hold up pay and promotions

February 26, 1999

The senate at Leicester University has been asked not to rubber-stamp this year's round of staff promotions and pay rises until the university's visitor, the Queen, has completed an inquiry into alleged procedural flaws and breaches of the rules.

The request was made by Andrew Colman, a reader in psychology, who petitioned the Queen with a series of complaints in June 1998. Eight months later, the university is about to respond to the Queen's representative, the Lord Chancellor's department. Dr Colman has asked the visitor to investigate "whether our procedures are fair, and whether, even as they are, they are being adhered to".

Dr Colman has been trying to apply for a chair since 1992, when he was told he had a strong case for promotion. Dr Colman, it is understood, has been denied promotions when candidates with lower formal rankings have been successful.

Dr Colman is concerned about what he sees as an unfair vetting procedure, in which the vice-chancellor interviews candidates before their application can go forward.

Under the university's procedures, as laid down in an annual promotions criteria circular for 1998, all candidates for a chair "should in the first instance arrange to see the vice-chancellor for an informal discussion of the case". This is unusual in higher education, and it runs contrary to the spirit of the Nolan report into standards in public life.

Anyone dissatisfied with the vice-chancellor's personal decision can complain. But under the university's grievances procedure, complaints go first to the vice-chancellor.

Dr Colman was also told that in his case he could not appeal. Last year in a letter from the personnel officer, Dr Colman was told: "There is no appeal mechanism for chairs or other academic promotions."

This week the university confirmed that the visitor had been petitioned and that senate had been made aware of the petition. "The vice-chancellor will refer to (Dr Colman's) letter during the course of the senate meeting this week," a spokesperson said. "The university has prepared a formal response to the petition, which will be submitted shortly. It would not, therefore, be appropriate to comment to the media upon a matter that is now under review."

The senate was due to consider Dr Colman's request as The THES went to press. It is expected that it will be denied. The visitor is not expected to report for several months yet.

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