Staff query colleagues' exit

November 10, 1995

Staff at Coventry University's school of engineering want an independent inquiry into the way the institution's senior management handled disciplinary proceedings brought against two professors, who have now left, over their management of two research contracts.

Derek Sheldon, dean of the school of engineering, has resigned and Chris Cernes, head of the centre for integrated design, has been dismissed following an investigation by the university's independent auditors, KPMG Peat Marwick.

The university says the investigation continues but that there is no evidence of either fraud or financial loss to the university. But the vice chancellor has asked his legal advisers to provide him with a summary report that identifies and assesses options available to the university. This is to be presented to the university's governors.

The joint trades unions which represent academic and other staff within the school are questioning why the two professors were not suspended several months ago so that they could devote their time to helping the internal inquiry. They are planning to ask the Higher Education Funding Council for England to investigate.

"There was unanimous support for an independent inquiry to obtain the complete truth about this affair. It should also investigate the circumstances surrounding the appointment of Professor Sheldon when he was promoted to dean in March 1993," the joint statement from the unions says.

Michael Goldstein, the university's vice chancellor, says that an independent inquiry is not necessary. "We have handled the matter, properly, honestly and fairly and I see no reason why we should not continue to do so."

King Alfred's College of Higher Education has withdrawn its offer of a vice principalship to Professor Sheldon. John Dickinson, the college principal, said in a statement: "Information has come to light which would have had a material influence upon the college's choice of candidate for the post if it had been known at the time that the college was considering offering employment to Professor Sheldon."

The college's Natfhe branch is meeting next Tuesday to consider asking its management whether financial compensation will be sought if misleading information was provided.

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