Southampton Institute director David Leyland is suing a local newspaper for libel after two weeks of bad publicity surrounding the institute's overseas franchise operation and restructuring programme. At the same time, Wessex Institute of Technology is considering taking Southampton Institute to court for using an institutional logo very similar to its own.
The High Court writ for defamation concerning the institute's industrial relations and its Athens-based campus was delivered before an emergency meeting of the institute's 21 governors on Wednesday to discuss the recent media coverage.
The writ Q issued by the institute's solicitors Paris Smith and Randall Q has been served on Southampton's Southern Daily Echo, the editor, and reporter Andrew Head. It has been served on behalf of Professor Leyland, the institute, and director of academic operations Brian Cotton. But the newspaper has continued its campaign by publishing another story on the small Southampton Solent campus in Athens which runs undergraduate degree programmes in maritime studies and business administration as well as a certificate in law and an MBA course.
The Wessex Institute of Technology, a small postgraduate college whose specialist engineering degrees are validated by Cardiff University, has asked Southampton Institute to remove its medieval boat logo because it resembles its own logo too closely. Spokesman Lance Sucharov said: "We want to resolve this amicably, but we may have to take legal action, because something like this is very important."
Wessex Institute, based near Southampton, has strong international links, and Mr Sucharov said foreign students could find the logos "confusing". Wessex, which first used the logo in 1987, has won the backing of several scholars. Alan Davies, head of the mathematics division at Hertfordshire University, said the logo is "sufficiently similar I to be confusing to prospective students and academic colleagues, especially those from overseas". George Rzevski, professor at the Open University, said "the similarity is so great that there is almost an implication the two are one and the same institution".
A Southampton Institute spokesperson said: "We are aware of the allegation and the matter is in the hands of our solicitors."