Staff query experience of teaching head

January 19, 2007

A dozen academics at one of the world's most respected univer-sity centres for science policy have warned of a collapse of collegiality in a row over the appointment of a new head of teaching who has no significant teaching experience.

Some 12 members of staff at Sussex University's Centre for Science and Technology Policy Research (SPRU) - a large majority of its entire teaching staff - have signed a group complaint about the appointment of their colleague Martin Meyer as head of teaching.

In a letter written late last year to the university's head of human resources, Jane Summerville, the staff - including two professors - complain that teaching experience should have been an essential selection criteria for the position.

"In our view, these essential criteria do not appear to have been adequately taken into account in the selection process... As a result, collegiality among SPRU teaching faculty and the confidence of SPRU colleagues have been severely undermined."

Dr Meyer, a SPRU PhD graduate, joined the centre as an employee on a four-year research fellowship funded by the Gatsby Charitable foundation.

Before coming to Sussex, he worked as research director for the Finnish Institute for Enterprise Management, which he joined from the Institute of Strategy and International Business of Helsinki University of Technology, where he had worked as a researcher and project manager.

Among the 12 staff who signed the letter of complaint were professors Gordon MacKerron and Erik Millstone and four of the SPRU's five masters programme conveners. In the letter, they stress that they are not questioning Dr Meyer's academic abilities.

However, they add: "We are concerned about the extent to which teaching-related qualifications of the candidates have been assessed against the requirements set out in the person specification circulated..."

A spokeswoman for Sussex said: "The university is confident that it makes appointments in a fair and robust way.

"In response to the letter sent in November, we of course reviewed the processes in the appointment and were entirely satisfied that they followed good practice, as we made clear in our reply in mid-December.

"The university is now focusing on working with the SPRU and its strong cadre of academic staff to build on its international academic profile, following its 40th anniversary, which we celebrated in 2006."

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