Whistleblowers

July 27, 2001

Senior academics have condemned Bradford University's decision to exclude a respected modern linguist from the research assessment exercise for "strategic reasons".

The Association of University Teachers has also criticised the decision, which publicly brands Roger Hausheer "research inactive".

After learning that he would be excluded, Dr Hausheer complained to John Cusworth, head of the School of Social and International Studies. He said that he had put forward four research papers of the 11 he had published in the census period, but that the department recorded that he had submitted only three.

He complained that he had had a "long history of strained relations" with the department's research coordinator, and that he could "see no reasonable obstacle" to his inclusion as research active. He wanted his work to be assessed externally to gauge its worthiness for submission.

The request was refused. Professor Cusworth explained: "I took your proposalI to the chair of (the research strategy committee) and other involved colleagues. I am afraid the response was entirely unsupportive on the grounds that this will open the floodgates to numerous other such requests from people in similar positions."

Dr Hausheer took his complaint to the vice-chancellor, Colin Bell, who said that although Dr Hausheer was research active, he was the victim of the university's "strategy".

"It is not helpful that (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) uses the term 'not research active'," Professor Bell said.

"Throughout the university's preparation, we have preferred to use the phrase 'research active but not submitted' as a much more accurate description for those colleagues who are clearly pursuing research and scholarly activities, but who, for reasons of strategy, have not been included this time," he said.

Professor Bell said that Dr Hausheer's publications "did not meet the level necessary for the modern languages' target of a grade four".

Dr Hausheer - who in the RAE census period was awarded a Leverhulme Award, was elected a visiting fellow at St Catherine's College, Oxford, and was invited to international conferences to give papers - insists that his work is of the required standard, but Bradford's decision-makers were not in a position to judge it properly because it did not fall into their field of expertise.

Dr Hausheer said he had won support from Jim Reed, professor of German at Oxford University, and John Gray, a professor at the London School of Economics, who had both written to the vice-chancellor to protest against the decision. Neither was available to comment this week.

Professor Bell told The THES: "It is clearly inappropriate to enter into a public discussion about a particular case. The university abided rigorously by the rules of the exercise as set by the Higher Education Funding Council.

"The difficult decision of omitting any member of staff was taken in full consultation with the departments and was taken in the light of the quality objectives in that particular area."

Unions denounce fee for unfair dismissal claims

Academic union leaders have attacked plans by the government to charge sacked workers a fee of up to £100 to make a claim for unfair dismissal at employment tribunals.

Plans for the fee, announced this week, have been seen as an attack on workers' human rights by creating a barrier to justice. It is understood that ministers expect the fee to cut the number of tribunals by about 20 per cent and to deter vexatious claims.

A spokesman for the Association of University Teachers said: "What price justice? This is an arbitrary imposition that sends out the wrong signal about the role of tribunals in helping workers seek redress."

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