A Cardiff University professor is facing dismissal after she agreed to represent her PhD protégé in his race discrimination case against her employer.
Patricia Fosh, a professor in the university's business school and a leading expert in equal opportunities and employment rights, provided legal support to her student, Chi-chieh Chen.
Dr Chen took Cardiff to court last month, claiming race discrimination after he failed to gain a research post at Cardiff, having completed his PhD under Professor Fosh at the university.
The Cardiff Employment Tribunal heard that Professor Fosh had been sent a letter from the university's director of personnel, Alastair McDougall, before the case came to court.
The letter says: "As well as being a witness for Dr Chen, you are representing him in his claim against the university… your representation of Dr Chen gives rise to a serious conflict of interest on your part and could bring yourself and the university into serious disrepute."
Mr McDougall says in the letter that Professor Fosh also breached the university's expectations of confidentiality by allegedly passing to Dr Chen information about the university's discussion of the merits of his application, which she had been involved in.
He adds that Professor Fosh's involvement in the case "may have placed you in breach of various obligations owed to the university under your contract of employment. We are in the process of carrying out a disciplinary investigation and will write to you in due course.
"Moreover, in the course of representing Dr Chen at the tribunal hearing there is a very real risk that further breaches may occur. We therefore require you to immediately stop acting for Dr Chen," the letter says.
It is understood that because Professor Fosh ignored the letter's demands and continued to represent Dr Chen at the hearing, she has been suspended pending disciplinary action. The Business School reception confirmed that she was not currently at work.
Professor Fosh declined to comment on the case or her employment status when contacted at home by The Times Higher this week.
Cardiff University was unable to comment on the case before The Times Higher went to press.
The outcome of Dr Chen's claim is due shortly.
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