Staff pilloried by head

June 4, 1999

Lecturers' leaders have lambasted the principal of Manchester College of Art and Technology, Peter Tavernor, for a public attack on his own staff, some of whom he has described as "dishonest and destructive".

Mr Tavernor, in his regular address to staff in an in-house newsletter, last week attacked "some elements of the college staff" for mounting "a desperate search for sleaze" against the management. He condemned trade union officials from Natfhe for "stupidity" and mocked striking Natfhe members as "desultory" and "bobbly-hatted". Natfhe regional official Colin Gledhill was accused of a campaign to "blacken the name of myself and the college management".

Mr Tavernor said: "Everyone should examine their role in what has been a turbulent period". Natfhe members are suggesting Mr Tavernor should examine his own role. Issues that lecturers have been "desperately" trying to draw public attention to are:

The college faces at least seven employment tribunals for breach of contract and unfair dismissal, all supported by Natfhe

Staff have gone on two one-day strikes this year

The college was recently judged by Further Education Funding Council inspectors to have "weak governance". The college corporation does not adhere to the instruments and articles of government, said the inspectors, and "does not fulfil its responsibilities under the financial memorandum with the FEFC". Inspectors said governance was "less than satisfactory" and will be re-inspected

The college management information systems were described by inspectors as "inadequate", preventing the college from setting proper achievement targets

Staffing costs at the college have been cut by Pounds 900,000 since 1996, although the total number of staff has risen. Cuts have been aided by the hotly contested reclassification of some lecturers to "trainers", and the degrading of senior lectureships to lectureships

Until last week, the college was in the FEFC's "at risk" financial category. The college has had deficits of more than Pounds 1 million in each of the past three years. It has "negative reserves" of Pounds 1.8 million.

These issues may help explain Mr Tavernor's outburst. But he insisted in his newsletter: "This management team, at all levels, is filled with integrity, good vision educationally and a firm commitment to students."

Patrick Anderson, Natfhe's branch representative, said: "I can't decide if Mr Tavernor is harking back to the era of the Victorian mill owner or the heyday of Thatcherism. He can shout at me all he likes - I'm used to it - but in the long term this attitude is detrimental to the college. How can we have a constructive relationship with management if they are always going to the barricades?"

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