Suspended v-c fails in legal bid to halt inquiry

February 12, 2009

The suspended vice-chancellor of the University of East London has failed in a legal bid to halt an investigation into his leadership abilities.

Martin Everett was suspended last July by UEL's lay governors to allow "serious concerns" about his "leadership of the institution" to be investigated.

Earlier this month he went to the High Court seeking an injunction to halt the university's investigation. He argued that because members of the investigation committee had been present at a governors' meeting in June 2008, when the decision to suspend him was taken, they could not judge his case impartially.

Professor Everett lost the legal challenge and costs were awarded against him. He was more successful last year when he applied to the High Court to stop the university restricting him from contacting witnesses. Part-way through the hearing on 12 November, the university dropped its defence, allowing Professor Everett to speak to whoever he liked.

Times Higher Education reported in October 2008 that Professor Everett had rejected the offer of a payment to leave UEL before he was suspended.

Six days before his suspension on 8 July 2008, Professor Everett wrote to the chair of the governors, Jim McKenna, expressing "very serious concerns" about how he was being treated.

"You essentially invite me to accept a payment to go quietly or otherwise you threaten the use of procedures to remove me ... this action does not derive from any recognisable process. There has been no warning of misconduct or demand for improvement," he wrote.

The University and College Union at UEL has consistently criticised the board's treatment of Professor Everett, arguing that the action against him was unjustified and that correct processes were not followed, which the university has denied.

In a statement issued last week, the union said: "It seems that at UEL the board is answerable to no one ... UCU believes that the role of governors must be reviewed urgently: the UEL episode reveals how damaging are the methods of the corporate boardroom when applied to an institution of higher education."

The committee is expected to reach a decision on Professor Everett's future in the next few weeks.

melanie.newman@tsleducation.com.

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