March 8, 2002

Universities criticised for double-charging
Universities have been cashing in on a fast-track graduate teacher-training initiative by double-charging for training and thereby "penalising" schools and trainees.
The Teacher Training Agency has warned universities not to double-charge for the Graduate Training Programme, for which it pays them £4,000 for each student trained on the job. Some universities are making extra charges to schools and even to the trainees.

Training providers get the £4,000 to cover the costs of training and assessment, conducting an "initial needs assessment" and working out an individual training plan for each student. The students work towards qualified teacher status while they are employed alongside qualified teachers in schools.

Michael Day, director of funding and allocations at the TTA, wrote to institutions last month. "I feel it needs restating that the training grant is intended to support the cost of initial needs assessment, where the application is successful. Recovering the development costs from schools (or individuals) where the application has been successful rather than recouping it from the training monies is in effect double funding of the development of the training plan.

"This is something that the TTA could not support, particularly as it may be viewed as penalising schools."

The TTA said it issued the warning when it became clear that a "small number" of institutions had wrongly charged individuals.

Cambridge racks up fees in Evans dispute
Cambridge University spent £1.5 million on "services including legal fees" last year, a sizable chunk of it on fighting legal action by history lecturer Gill Evans, it seems.

Dr Evans has three legal cases pending against the university - a claim with the employment tribunal that she has been victimised, under the law to protect whistleblowers, and two closely-linked applications for judicial review of the university's procedures for promoting academic staff. Dr Evans claims that her criticisms of the university's governance and her disputes with key Cambridge officers have meant that her personal applications for promotion have been unfairly blocked.

Dr Evans's critics have claimed that she is draining the university's resources and diverting managers from running it.

Dr Evans said: "I've only ever gone to court when every internal avenue has been closed to me. Every time I ask a question they throw an expensive barrister on to it. It is their choice to fight everything to the death."

Whistleblower barred from Rotary Club
The "blackballing" of higher education's most celebrated whistleblower, John Pickering, appears to have extended even to his personal life.
The THES has catalogued Professor Pickering's remarkable failure to obtain a full-time post in higher education since 1994, when he was made redundant as deputy vice-chancellor at Portsmouth University after helping to draw attention to the irregular expenses claims of a senior colleague.

Professor Pickering believes that he had been unofficially blacklisted as a trouble-maker, although his whistleblowing was vindicated in an inquiry that criticised his treatment. Now it seems that his attempts to seek redress from Portsmouth's governing body for his premature departure has resulted in his membership of Havant Rotary Club being blocked.

The club's membership secretary, Tony Cox, informed him: "One of our members is a governor of Portsmouth University. Without going into detail, he has told me that there are matters awaiting settlement between you and the university. In this situation, the club member feels that for the time being, your membership of the club could be a potential source of embarrassment for both of you."

Although Professor Pickering said he was no longer interested in becoming a member, he said that the blackballing was unethical and made a complaint. The Rotary Club's president, D. J. Walters, said that because Professor Pickering had not formally applied for membership, "there can be no question of you having been blackballed", and said the matter was closed.

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