Whistleblowers: Middlesex settles claim

March 16, 2001

Senior managers at Middlesex University knew the outcome of a staff grievance claim months before the hearings were complete, The THES has learned.

Their decision to throw out a bullying claim by former administrator Pauline Foley before all the evidence was considered formed part of a long list of complaints against Middlesex in a case that has been settled out of court. Middlesex was this week due to pay Ms Foley £40,000 to settle her claim that the university failed in its duty of care towards her.

In January 1999, more than two months before the final grievance hearing, Middlesex's human resources chief wrote to the occupational health adviser:

"Shortly Pauline will be advised that the university does not agree that her manager (then pro vice-chancellor Geoffrey Alderman) bullied her but that he acted in her best interests." After a three-hour hearing, vice-chancellor Michael Driscoll confirmed that the grievance was rejected.

The failed grievance was the culmination of a litany of problems faced by Ms Foley. An earlier grievance, in which she complained of being bullied by her colleague Kath Baker, was upheld in 1997. Ms Baker was sacked for gross misconduct. It emerged that she had set out to "disrupt" Ms Foley's working relationship with Professor Alderman.

Key to Ms Foley's subsequent complaints was her claim that Middlesex did not support her sufficiently through her difficulties with Ms Baker. Ms Foley believed that Professor Alderman, who is no longer at Middlesex, had backed Ms Baker in the dispute. Middlesex has always argued that he was acting in what he believed at the time to be Ms Foley's best interests.

The university said this week: "I confirm that a full and final settlement was reached, with no admission of liability, between the university's insurers and Ms Foley's solicitors. The university will not comment further."

Cambridge quiet about Hinduja links

Cambridge University is coy about its relationship with the Hinduja brothers, the billionaire businessmen facing corruption allegations in India over the Bofors arms deal.

The THES 's report in February of extensive links between the brothers and Cambridge led to calls for a review of the ties. Staff and student concerns about the Hindujas' donations to Cambridge's new divinity faculty building and about the brothers' sponsorship of research at the Dharam Hinjda Institute of Indic Research were met with a curt statement from the university: the gift from the Hinduja's charitable arm, the Hinduja Foundation, "complemented the range of religious studies on offer at Cambridge".

The university has been similarly reluctant to discuss the Hinduja Cambridge Trust, a student scholarship scheme run with the £150,000 annual profits of a Pounds 2 million investment by the Hinduja Foundation. Asked by The THES to name the trustees, the university said the trust had exempt charity status and that Cambridge was not responsible for its members. The Hindujas were also silent on the matter. A Hinduja spokeswoman declined to make any comment to The THES on any aspects of the trust's membership, its legal status, its functions or its lines of accountability. She said the Hindujas felt the trust was a matter for Cambridge University to discuss.

Nevertheless, The THES has learned who the trustees are, and Cambridge has now confirmed the names. The director is Trinity College's Anil Seal, who is also director of the Cambridge Commonwealth Trust. He declined to return The THES 's calls. The trustees include: Stephen Fleet, former registrary at Cambridge and now master of Downing College, Cambridge; Gordon Johnstone, president of Wolfson College, Cambridge; Lord Lewis, master of Robinson College, Cambridge; Jack Cunningham, former Cabinet Office minister, and former prime minister Ted Heath.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.