Whistleblowers: 'Ghostwriter' may face legal action over appeal

January 25, 2002

The former lecturer selling essays to students to help them plagiarise their way through university could face legal action following allegations that she misled the appeal panel that overturned her dismissal from the University of Central England in 1996. The THES has also learnt that Elizabeth Hall, who runs an academic "ghostwriting" business via the internet, has been falsely credited with possessing a PhD.

The THES reported in September that Ms Hall was selling essays to university students.

In December, we reported that she had taken early retirement from a lecturers' job at UCE after a year of sick leave in 1995. She says she suffered from depression, blaming her working conditions. She was redeployed as an administrator but was dismissed in summer 1996, after complaints from colleagues about "a failure of conduct", including excessive use of the telephone for personal calls.

Ms Hall won an appeal against the dismissal, claiming in her mitigation that her mother had suffered a stroke and required frequent care and attention. She remained on the pay roll, with an extended probation, but left of her own accord after more periods of sick leave shortly afterwards.

UCE confirmed this week that Ms Hall's appeal was upheld on the basis of her claims about her mother's illness. But this week doubts emerged about Ms Hall's assertions. When confronted with claims that her mother did not suffer a stroke at the time of her appeal, she replied: "We have all at some time in our lives found ourselves to be in those situations, whilst attempting to extricate ourselves, ventured down those paths that at the time seemed like a good idea and the only solution open. In attempting to limit the damage, the original situation became further compounded."

A friend of Ms Hall acting as a media spokeswoman confirmed to The THES that Ms Hall's mother did not suffer a stroke. UCE is investigating whether it can recover salary paid to Ms Hall after her successful appeal.

"Any payments made to Ms Hall after her appeal had been upheld may have been claimed improperly," a UCE spokesman said. "The university will be obliged to seek advice as to whether or not there is any possibility of recovering such monies." Ms Hall told The THES that she was intrigued as to why UCE should at this late stage have the "effrontery... to seek repayment of a few months' salary from a minor post I relinquished five years ago". She said that if pursued by UCE for these monies, she would launch a claim against them for the destruction of her "academic and teaching career".

There are also concerns about references to Ms Hall as "Dr Hall", made after her time at UCE. Following reported references to Ms Hall as "Dr Hall", The THES asked her about allegations from a group of her former colleagues, calling itself "Protect Academe", that she has falsely claimed to have a PhD. She initially declined to comment, but in a letter emailed to The THES 's editor, she writes: "I understand Mr Baty is running a further piece... in which he is exposing my false claims to a PhD. Whilst I do not deny the claim, I shall be making no contribution to this piece."

Ms Hall's spokeswoman later confirmed that Ms Hall does not hold a PhD and repeated that Ms Hall did not deny wrongly using the title.

The THES has also learnt that Ms Hall's essay-selling business, Elizabeth Hall Associates, is run by Ms Hall alone. She has admitted to The THES that: "There are no associates, only me, but it looks good on paper."

When confronted with the allegations regarding her mother's health and her PhD, she said she would be making a complaint about The THES to the Press Complaints Commission and declined to comment further.


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