Whistleblowers: Swansea says sorry

June 22, 2001

Swansea says sorry

Swansea University's student union has publicly apologised for unfairly dismissing its general manager, Nick Tregoning, and has made an out-of-court settlement.

The THES reported in January that Mr Tregoning had won the backing of his trade union, the Association of University Teachers, to take the student union (SUSU) to an employment tribunal after sabbatical officers dismissed him last year for alleged incompetence.

Jennifer Smith, SUSU president at the time, wrote to Mr Tregoning last June informing him that his employment, after 14 years at the union, was "terminated with immediate effect". "Today will be your last day of employment with the union," she wrote.

The students provided no evidence for the alleged offences, which Mr Tregoning always denied, and ignored their own disciplinary procedures providing for a proper investigation and an opportunity for the accused to state his case. Mr Tregoning was not given a chance to appeal.

Even if the students had provided evidence, the alleged offences would not have warranted instant dismissal. The charges against Mr Tregoning included the "mismanagement of personnel issues" and "acting without authorisation from sabbatical officers", which do not fall into the union's disciplinary category of "gross misconduct". They fall into the less serious category "sub-standard performance".

Howard Moss, Swansea AUT president, wrote to Ms Smith: "You have acted in flagrant violation of your own protocol (and) employment practice generally."

The SUSU initially held firm, claiming its decision was made under the "authority of our constitution", but on legal advice made an attempt to settle, offering sums that were gradually increased until Mr Tregoning accepted what is understood to be a five-figure sum earlier this month. The terms of the settlement included a public apology.

The current edition of the Swansea student union newspaper, Waterfront , includes the following announcement from the 2000-01 SUSU permanent staff committee: "The dismissal was carried out in a way which breached normal employment procedures. The SUSU would like to take this opportunity to apologise unreservedly to Nick Tregoning."

Ian Angus, the current SUSU president, who was not in post at the time of the unfair dismissal, said the union had no comment.

Can cost-cutting Luton keep up quality?

Can the University of Luton guarantee adequate provision for students on courses it has begun to close as part of a cost-cutting exercise?

In a paper to the Humanities Faculty Academic Standards Committee (HFASC), academics from the politics and public policy programmes (PPP) say plans to cut staff numbers from 11 to just two will leave students short-changed. "The amount and range of work necessary to 'see-out' the existing students is totally beyond any two members of the PPP subject group," the paper says.

"Even with the extensive use of visiting lecturers and the rumoured use of lecturers from similar subject areas, it is very hard to see how the work could be covered to anything approaching a satisfactory level of quality."

In a separate paper, history academics say that plans to cut the number of historians from seven to two would "inevitably jeopardise the maintenance of high-quality provision in the existing history programmes".

Tim Boatswain, Luton's pro vice-chancellor, said: "The HFASC's report was considered by the directorate. It was satisfied that the maintenance of high-quality provision would not be jeopardised by the restructuring plans.

"The vice-chancellor has assured the student union that appropriate modules and resources will be available to ensure that all students studying on degree courses that are due to be phased out will experience continued high-quality teaching."

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