December 21, 2014

President Dicky’s Christmas Message

This will be my last seasonal message to you as your Dictator at Bulster University, those of you who are still lucky enough to be employed, and in celebration of that positive thought I encourage you to give thanks in the University Chapel every day. For those of you who have been pointed or even dragged screaming, feet-first, to redundancy, early retirement or have fallen ill in service this year, I want you to see it as a new door that had opened for you, and return all Bulster property before our security team summarily escort you off the premises.

scary-santa-pics-029-200x200It has been a hard year for Bulster. Things have not quite worked out with DEL and thanks to government cut-backs we are running a bit short of money and students. We are having a few difficulties with our “Build Belfast” campaign and those pesky property moguls keep upping the “bakseesh” on us. I’ve even started to get worried about my own properties and doubt I’ll ever get tenants for them. And even worse, the Saudis owe us £2 million which I was relying on for a few readies at Christmas, and many of Bulster’s emerging market investments have just not emerged! In fact things are so bad I think I can now appreciate what happened to my old friend Gerry Jameson, and I hope you can sympathise how distressing it is for those of us in power when things go a bit pear-shaped.

The great thing is that at Bulster, we are all in this together and we are all making sacrifies to try to get Bulster back on its feet, and ready for your new dictator, sorry I mean new President. I myself have been making personal cut-backs. Where possible I’ve been making do with upper class rather than a sky-suite unless its a particularly long flight. I never use a hotel with more than 5*- no 7* opulent palaces for me, fellow Bulsters! Bulster never quite recovered from that time Gerry spent 25k on a weekend with the girls a la Peninsula in Hong Kong! And you can appreciate the great saving on booze alone during my time compared with Gerry has allowed us to put a penny or two by! Every little helps!

imagesOTDN1YQKI know some of you have been worried about the amount of money we’ve been spending on legal bills and employment tribunals and this kind of thing. Personally I think it would be far cheaper if we could just assassinate these dissident members of staff, and an old mate I used to run into in the Lodge Hotel even told me he knew a few boys who had quit the paramilitary racket and were going free-lance. But my henchman “Mad Bonnie” whose had a bit of a run in with the peelers recently himself, tells me a shooting or two on campus might not look so good for our post-conflict institute, so he’s persuaded me instead that selective internment might be the thing to deal with these niggly complainers!

imagesETMO09STThose of you who might be inclined to think of my past decade as a bit of a black time, might take sympathy from what those CIA fellows said recently defending torture and counter-terrorism. When Gerry blew the budget on us, we all had our own terrible 9/11 here at University House. Desperate times demand desperate remedies. And I also want to tell you that all those stories about water-boarding and electric torture in the Tower basement were greatly exaggerated. I never authorised “Mad Bonnie” to use anything stronger than knuckle-dusters and in extremis his University-issued taser. Gee  thanks to “Mad Bonnie” and me, Bulster’s a walking PANORAMA  investigative report waiting to happen!

imagesI7O4G0B4And let me just squash that rumour that I’d closed the SCR to turn it into a “listening post”. Don’t believe everything those lefty no-gooders in the union might tell you. Most of them need a good kick up the arse! Anyways we needed the SCR for all those Arab fellows with their special diets, only they aren’t coming any more….I thought once they gave me a magic carpet and a Rolex we were best mates, I even read a bit of the Quran  in anticipation…Now they aren’t even answering my calls…..
imagesBMW6I2S8Christmas always makes me feel emotional. It hardly seems like yesterday that I led the palace coup, and was full of excitement in my early days of dictatorship. Believe me it gets lonely at the top. I spend far too much time with “Mad Bonnie” and he really smells kinda garlicly of Sodium pentothal  and that other “truth serom” stuff  he must have down there in the Bulster dungeons. That banking fellow on Council is too smart for his own boots, and Jimmy never returns my calls either. I suppose he might be off somewhere on a Hobbit movie.

images (296)Recently I’ve been asking myself what I’ve got to show for it? True I’ve had a fat pay-packet for a while, a nice pad, luxury foreign travel and I’ve a bit of pension for a rainy day- yeah a few millions worth! But QUB laughed at me when I put in for their vacancy and to be honest I haven’t made the short-list anywhere else. In fact I didn’t even get a reply when I inquired about heading up a miserly FE college. And those buggers in Stormont have blocked me from getting any medals, never mind a gong. Even my cleaner has an MBE for some shitty Ballysally Community initiative, and here I am a hard-working dictator and no-one’s thought to award me anything.

imagesSI21AKM2Didn’t my fellow dictator, President Idi Amin, have all sorts of medallions on his uniform and wasn’t he just a humble Ugandan soldier? I’m wondering if I should follow Idi’s example and go off into exile in one of those Arab states. Maybe the Saudis would offer me some kind of retirement post in lieu  of the £2 Million they still owe Bulster! Life is so hard for former dictators- I’m just remembering what happened to that dead Chilean President, General Pinochet - it got to the stage where he couldn’t leave the country for fear of rendition to some foreign court in handcuffs! Gee I might end up like “Mad Bonnie” being questioned by the local police or being stopped at the airport!

images26RTUSJQAnd now I’m gonna have to get used to a life without servants and waiters and all the perks that go with having a University Mansion. I’m gonna have to down-size badly and maybe put some stuff into storage, especially those Arab rugs and things- they’re so bulky, and not maybe my best memory of good old Bulster! Gotta get things ready for the new man…..Succession-planning we modern dictators call it. Better try to make a start with that at the Christmas hols. “Bonnie’s” kindly offered to lend me a hand if he’s out of work by then, and Dean Raisin gave me a cup of tea and a bun yesterday- its good to have friends... now its only me and the dog.

And talking about dogs! I just can’t understand why thev’ve all gone and bitten me as I thought I was a good master. I was only just chatting to a few of the union boys in BA’s lounge last week (terrible the riff raff they let in these days) and we agreed it was all down to a couple of loud-mouths. After all Olly and the others bought the union off a long time ago. There’s hardly a true socialist among them apart maybe from that ideological girlie, and the union heavies have muscled her. Now even the footballers hate me and there’s talk the entire staff will boycott my farewell do, apart from of course “Bonnie” but he might have to get day-release to attend.

images27V84762Well I’d better get on with the rest of my Christmas cards. Let me sign off now with Presidential seasons greetings to all of you of any faith or none! And in the true spirit of Christmas I’ve told everyone they can go home an hour early on 24th December but don’t abuse the privilege or it’ll be taken off you in 2015.

“Season’s Greetings from Your Vice(y) Chancellor & President”
President’s New Year’s Resolutions: “Beware of Saudis bearing gifts” - “Don’t trust a banker when he says he’s here to help” - “Watch your enemies, and your friends even closer” - “As ever, His Excellency Dicky”

ADVISORY….This is a work of humorous fiction and any similarities with persons or places real or imagined is purely a matter of coincidence. If you’ve been bullied at Bulster University or any F/HE institution don’t hesitate in complete confidence to E-MAIL:  Victims may complain without penalty under their college procedures or consider making a complaint to their local police. Where the police are contacted bullying usually ceases immediately.

December 16, 2014

Bullying in higher education: it's time to hold the sector to account

The results of the Guardian higher education network’s survey on bullying in higher education should give the entire sector cause to worry about the competence and style of leaders and managers in the sector.

As someone who has examined the equality policies and action plans of every institution in the UK in the last 12 years, I identify three key problems:

1) University leaders put money ahead of learning

Vice-chancellors, provosts and principals are running institutions that see themselves more and more as corporations or conglomerates. They are not understanding that financial management and brand leadership should not displace the fact that universities are first and foremost learning communities – and that the principal function of education is to humanise society.

Management competence must be measured as much as anything else by senior managers’ capacity to demonstrate a knowledge of employment law and acceptable practice, and its convergence with equality and human rights legislation. They need to know how they would ensure that it forms the foundation on which they set about building and sustaining a culture of equity.

2) HR protects senior management

Complaint procedures are often far too legalistic and bureaucratic and are not as responsive as they might be to the pain and hurt that staff routinely experience.

Rather than dealing with the offending conduct, institutions indulge in a form of back covering and self justification which blocks their ears to the messages that those suffering bullying wish to convey. Rather than holding managers to account for respecting the rights of employees, HR departments see it as their business to put a ring of steel around offending managers and ignore the duty of care the institution as employer has to those whom they bully.

Like schools and Ofsted, higher education appears to believe that the institution’s place in the REF (research excellence framework) league table is paramount and therefore whatever is done to achieve the highest assessment is justifiable, irrespective of the denial of rights and the damage it causes to individuals as differentiated by ethnicity, gender disability etc.

3) Universities feel they are untouchable

Increasingly, these corporations believe that no one could hold them to account on issues to do with employment law, employee relations and their compliance with equality and human rights legislation. So, they bully staff in respect of other organisational goals and in the process contravene the very laws that are in place to protect people from such abusive conduct.

When employees exercise their right to challenge them externally, and the institutions capitulate and go for a compromise agreement, such agreements invariably come with a non-disclosure or gagging clause. Thus, the problem simply becomes embedded.

Too many institutions see it as being in their interest to settle out of court and avoid massive legal fees and the danger of being found guilty by an employment tribunal. But they also do this to silence the victims of such abuse in return for a pay off.

They very rarely go on to scrutinise the management conduct that led the victim to seek redress in the first place. Therefore, business goes on as usual. The institution and the offending manager learn nothing and have no incentive to review and alter their conduct, even though the career of the complainant is pretty much ruined by the time matters get to that stage, however hefty the pay out.

Universities and gagging clauses report that over the last three years, 366 gagging clauses resulted from employment tribunal claims against universities that were settled prior to hearings. Those settlements involved payments to staff of £4.4m and legal costs of £7.1m. 810 staff submitted claims to employment tribunals for a range of alleged employment breaches, including bullying and harassment. Academic says of non-disclosure agreements:
“The exact wordings vary and are kept confidential but typically the member of staff signs their agreement not to discuss their settlement with anyone apart from immediate family or professional advisers. They also agree not to publicly criticise the university or discuss the dispute that led to the agreement being signed.”
In the interviews and focus group discussions I have held with complainants in universities, however, everyone has pointed to the stress, mental distress and disruption they suffered before, during and after their decision to take their complaint to the employment tribunal. The institution insulates itself and moves on. Most complainants find it difficult if not impossible to do so with their health, reputation and careers “intact”.

One would hope that this damning report would make the government review the criteria for granting external validation to the sector and re-examine the conditions upon which they continue to fund institutions to carry on with business as usual, especially having regard to the observations above.

Professor Gus John is a fellow of the london centre for leadership in learning at the Institute of Education and visiting faculty professor of education at the University of Strathclyde – follow him on Twitter @Gus_John


December 15, 2014

Email sent by Martin Wilkins to Stefan Grimm - Imperial College

Email 1
Date: 10 March 2014

Dear Stefan

I am writing following our recent meetings in which we discussed your current grant support and the prospects for the immediate future. The last was our discussion around your PRDP, which I have attached.

As we discussed, any significant external funding you had has now ended. I know that you have been seeking further funding support with Charities such as CRUK and the EU commission but my concern is that despite submitting many grants, you have been unsuccessful in persuading peer-review panels that you have a competitive application. Your dedication to seek funding is not in doubt but as time goes by, this can risk becoming a difficult situation from which to extricate oneself. In other words, grant committees can become fatigued from seeing a series of unsuccessful applications from the same applicant.

I am of the opinion that you are struggling to fulfill the metrics of a Professorial post at Imperial College which include maintaining established funding in a programme of research with an attributable share of research spend of £200k p.a and must now start to give serious consideration as to whether you are performing at the expected level of a Professor at Imperial College.

Over the course of the next 12 months I expect you to apply and be awarded a programme grant as lead PI. This is the objective that you will need to achieve in order for your performance to be considered at an acceptable standard. I am committed to doing what I can to help you succeed and will meet with you monthly to discuss your progression and success in achieving the objective outlined.  You have previously initiated discussions in our meetings regarding opportunities outside of Imperial College and I know you have been exploring opportunities elsewhere. Should this be the direction you wish to pursue, then I will do what I can to help you succeed.

Please be aware that this constitutes the start of informal action in relation to your performance, however should you fail to meet the objective outlined, I will need to consider your performance in accordance with the formal College procedure for managing issues of poor performance (Ordinance ­D8) which can be found at the following link.

Should you have any questions on the above, please do get in touch.

Best wishes


December 11, 2014

Bulster Uni’s Bullying Boffins

Last time we “named and shamed” Bulster’s notorious VC “Tricky Dicky” and his HR gopher-torturer, “Mad Bonnie”. We offered an expose of the mediocre former nurses, school teachers, administrators and policy “chancers” who make up the senior management team at Bulster University.
images75M8EG5ZThe local UCU branch and many of their staff have argued that top management  have been so consistently ineffective over decades that the only way Dicky could keep his multi-campus Gulag archipelago together, was through bullying at every level of this depressing institution.

Since this misery is inflicted on  Bulster University staff and students and offered to the public on the bank-rolling of public money, our readers are entitled to quiz the evidence of public shame in this province where one might have thought the lofty European Declaration of Human Rights might apply? Why is public money being wasted on a failed university? And why are the moguls of Bulster University apparently so unaccountable? With a HR Chief like Bonnie, Arthur Cox Solicitors are the current in a long line of lawyers kept busy for Bulster University!

Among universities in the UK and Ireland, Bulster University has consistently been among the worst for harassment of staff, and for work-place stress. It has among the highest rates of staff bringing cases to Industrial Tribunal and has been the subject of a number of successful landmark employment discrimination and bullying cases. Bulster University’s track-record for industrial relations is so bad the mild-mannered University and College Union which supposedly represents most academic staff believe Bulster University is “off the scale” on bullying and harassment of staff and needs a whole new category beyond just “grey-listing”.

images50V8VH0QIn regard to its internal reconciliation of industrial conflict Bulster University employs its own watch-dog or “University Visitor”, normally a senior legal figure, but whose terms of reference make him or her a de-facto employee of the University and who staff believe takes instructions directly from the university administration. Under such a procedures the Visitor, a person who is supposed to be genuinely independent and to represent the Monarch in the interests of fair-play, could be no more than an apology for an academic dictatorship.

Recently these luke-warm powers have been weakened and the Royal Visitor cannot now address employment issues. It is a sad indictment of Bulster that it’s Legal Head  “Olly” Mac is embroiled in a legal battle against the University.

This has involved Olly being suspended from his post on several occasions and has placed him in head-on conflict with the “uber dictator” his line manager, the universities Director of Torture and Execution, “Mad Bonnie”. And for those who might feel some sympathy for Olly getting a touch of his own nasty medicine, one should not forget this legal supremo has “ducked and dived”, and allegedly “lied and falsified” over decades of Industrial Tribunals brought by the University’s desperately immiserated academic staff. Never reluctant to wield the knife against his employees, it is a safe bet to say that nasty Olly is just now getting it in his own ass!

We can also report that Olly’s boss, “Mad Bonnie”, may himself be on his last days at the University. Subject to final disciplinary warning for bullying and threats, Bonnie is now under police investigation for criminal harassment and misconduct in public office. What also seems likely is that once Dicky’s ship finally sinks, Bonnie will be drowned with the other senior managements rats.

What implications has all this bullying for academic standards at Bulster University? Well for the malaise of plummeting academic standards in every league table we must attribute a good deal of blame to the University’s Provosts and academic deans who have been the enforcers of the college torture chambers. One thinks in particular of former Coleraine Provosts, Mal Blunt and Robbo “The Hutch”, both well remembered for their over-use of “Mad” Ronnie and his HR heavies.

imagesU031126YNot quite s dazzling as the famous “TV cops”, our Campus Provosts “Blunt and Hutch” had no scruples about bulldozing their colleagues along the way. In the process this duo became infamous for allowing large-scale closure of their programmes and singularly advancing their mediocre academic careers. Blunt was especially loathed by staff for his KGB-style web monitoring and “cyber-trolling” of academics. Perhaps more famous for sporting prowess than genuine scholarship, Blunt predictably turned campus management into a “game sport”.

After a week or two of “Blunt’s KGB treatment” his line-employees were cornered like rabbits in a flash-light. “Hutch” who had a less than stellar career as an economist is probably better known for being “economical with the truth” at college disciplinary and employment tribunal proceedings.

At most universities deans are custodians of collegiate knowledge. Bulster University is singularly unique in maintaining a deanship enforcing University House policy across the campus archipelago. Names which come to mind among corporate tsars include an Arts Dean whose life-hero is probably Polish General Jaruzelski, the former Communist supremo who imposed martial law to crush the Solidarity democracy movement.

Under Bulster’s own General, the Arts faculty has been reduced to shreds, its courses and staff dislocated across the archipelago and academic morale in ruins. Great Arts course that worked well in cultural cities like Derry were closed down while new ventures in scientific areas like Pharmacy,  Veterinary Science and Microbiology have yet to deliver!
In Bulster academic leadership is less of a deanship and more of a dictatorial tsar-ship! Then we have the recently elevated Milly Dick whose gaff in accepting hundreds of unqualified students did not prevent him making Pro-VC…a truly Ulster illustration of the corporate American saying “f..k up and get kicked up…”
imagesYEP4B95MThen we have the over-promoted Dean Raisin in Life Sciences famously ridiculed as Dicky’s most loyal dunce. Ms Raisin has wasted no time in joining Dicky in the international “cookie trough”. With Dicky she was  among about a dozen Bulster boffins accepting substantial gifts from Saudi educational institutions (who now owe Bulster over £2m in unpaid fees). 

Ranging from Rolexes, scarves and rugs, these might be interpreted as expensive “kick-backs” which the Senior Executive Team Minutes show resulted ultimately in a teminated contract, a £2 Million loss and the bizairre reality of a heavily indebted Bulster educating rich Saudi students at full cost to the local tax-payer. The Bulster managers got their gold watches, the university lost money, the tax-payer footed the bill, and local Northern Ireland students suffered from the short-fall.

Finally we have Social Sciences golden man, and rumored to be Dicky’s confidante, Micky Paul, whose rush to power shows how a Kingston boy can make a few talents go a long way. And as his leader is about to bow out as Bulster VC it is rumored that Dicky is also about to “come out “about his sexual identity.

These gossiped revelations recall those of a former Ulster University Education Chief whose personal sex-change journey would have been viewed more sympathetically even by Ulster’s “religious far-right” management had she not also been a bullying maniac. In true Ulster Christian fashion they allegedly ordered her thereafter to use the disabled toilets!

TVUVC Mike Fitzgerald in happier times
Ousted from Ulster, she went on to be removed for further bullying in Scotland. Well if indeed Dicky become one of our first VC’s to come out as part of the LGBTI community, this might well be one of his most honest actions at Bulster. But if announcement follows the rumor mill, Dicky is likely to be compared negatively with Thames Valley Uni’s flamboyant ear-ringed, pony-tailed bully Mike Fitzgerald (pictured here)  who finally  resigned after a devastating watchdog’s report said that degree standards at TVU could no longer be guaranteed. Echoes of Dicky in Bulster although “Tricky Dicky’s” suits are somewhat more sober and one doubts he’d ever get an ear-ring!

So that’s all for now from our Dictator at Bulster University. Next time we’ll take a look at what it’s genuinely like to be in one of Bulster University’s torture chambers, and we’ll see if the keepers of the torture machine, Dictator Dicky and “Mad Bonnie”, will finally get their just deserts. Who knows maybe this would not be the first time Dicky and Bonnie have worn handcuffs!

ADVISORY… This is a work of humorous fiction and any similarities with persons or places real or imagined is purely a matter of coincidence. If you’ve been bullied at Bulster University or any F/HE institution don’t hesitate in complete confidence to E-MAIL:  Victims may complain without penalty under their college procedures or consider making a complaint to their local police. Where the police are contacted bullying usually ceases immediately.

December 10, 2014

University of Ulster - Mandatory Injunction

The University of Ulster

“…At the University of Ulster, since 2009 there have been 16 claims lodged against the University of Ulster, with 14 of these withdrawn before they reach tribunal. Of the remaining two, one case is still ongoing and the other was won in favour of the University. The University spent £67,282.45 on legal fees to fight this equal pay case…”



A University of Ulster lecturer whose fixed term contract was not renewed was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against, a Northern Ireland industrial tribunal has ruled. He is to receive compensation in excess of £36,000 for losses incurred.
The landmark decision, in a case backed by UCU and Thompsons McClure Solicitors, clarifies the employment rights of fixed-term workers.

The damning judgement of the tribunal describes the reasons given by the Human Resources Director, Ronnie Magee, for not following a proper redundancy procedure as 'simply breathtaking in their arrogance and inadequacy'…”



“…Ulster University is not only harassing and bullying staff, they are also wasting an extraordinary amount of taxpayers money on legal costs in the process. Here are the costs for one single industrial tribunal case (IT): a whooping £72,990. This was only one case, UU has been taken to the IT more times than any other UK university in the last three years!...”


“…Does Mr. McCullough’s absence in the Tribunal case substantiate the rumor that he is indeed suspended? If so, on what grounds he is suspended? Would he face a disciplinary action? For what reason? Would there be a tribunal case- Oliver McCullough vs. University of Ulster? Would Mr. Barry Mulqueen, the usual barrister of the University of Ulster alongside Mr. McCullough, would also represent Ulster and this time face Mr. McCullough?”



 “…In Biggart v University of Ulster, an employment tribunal said that the University’s failure to consult with Dr Biggart when his contract came to an end was an act of discrimination against him as a fixed term worker…”


“…In 2009, Prof Holscher raised concerns about the ethical conduct of Prof Howard after learning of his involvement in the Alder Hey organs scandal. He told external bodies about his past conduct. In 2012 a disciplinary hearing charged Holscher with pursuing a vendetta against Howard. This year, at a second disciplinary hearing, Holscher was demoted from professor to senior lecturer. Holscher has named nine senior members of staff he claims were involved in a conspiracy against him and that his demotion was linked to his complaints against Howard…”



“…In this piece we’d like to show you what it’s like to be a staff member in such a failed institution as we get up close and personal with the torturous disciplinary process of the Ulster Gulag. Some partial explanation for this travesty may lie in the antecedent institutions of Ulster University as the merged entity inherited academic contracts which gave managers absolute power over academic staff, minimized individual academic freedom and left Ulster University a despotic variety of pre-92 institution by comparison with the relatively relaxed nature of contracts in more mature institutions. Good people would not stay, and bad management nurtured further mediocrity and repressive governance…”


December 07, 2014

More on Imperial College...

A management culture that prefers to deal with complaints based on how it suits. Ignore them and let bullies thrive as long as they are "productive" and sing along the same song. But follow them and take actions on those that might come against people that have a problem with, to the point that they even manufacture them in order to achieve what they want. For all their kind words, if you go to them with a complaint management will work behind the scenes to make sure nothing happens - a typical tactic is to wait so long that your legal options have been timed out. Academic management have an excuse for being useless - they aren't trained in management and are in constant fear from the top. But Human Resources have no excuse. They know exactly what they are doing. Some of them are malicious and seem to take pleasure in the pain they cause. Top management (most of them failed academics thirsty of power they could not get through their normal work/research) is carnivorous.

This is an institution who has an employment lawyer from one of the most expensive legal firms in the country (the Queen's solicitors) on retainer, working on site one day a week. And they make full use of them. The lawyer isn't there to help Imperial stick to the law. They are there to help them get away with flouting it.


December 02, 2014

Publish and perish at Imperial College London: the death of Stefan Grimm

This week’s Times Higher Education carried a report of the death, at age 51, of Professor Stefan Grimm: Imperial College London to ‘review procedures’ after death of academic. He was professor of toxicology in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial.
Now Stefan Grimm is dead. Despite having a good publication record, he failed to do sufficiently expensive research, so he was fired (or at least threatened with being fired).
“Speaking to Times Higher Education on condition of anonymity, two academics who knew Professor Grimm, who was 51, said that he had complained of being placed under undue pressure by the university in the months leading up to his death, and that he had been placed on performance review.”
Having had cause to report before on bullying at Imperial’s Department of Medicine, I was curious to know more.

It is my understanding that the interim head of his department had written to Grimm along the following lines (but I have not yet got the exact wording)
Your current level of funding does not constitute the appropriate level for a professor at Imperial College. Unless you submit and are awarded a Platform grant as PI in the next 12 months we will seek to initiate disciplinary action against you. This email constitutes a warning that your performance is being monitored and that action may be brought if you fail to meet the conditions herein
It didn’t take long to get hold of an email from Grimm that has been widely circulated within Imperial. The mail is dated a month after his death. It isn’t known whether it was pre-set by Grimm himself or whether it was sent by someone else. It’s even possible that it wasn’t written by Grimm himself, though if it is an accurate description of what happened, that’s not crucial.

No doubt any Imperial staff member would be in great danger if they were to publish the mail. So, as a public service, I shall do so.

The email from Stefan Grimm, below, was prefaced by an explanation written by the person who forwarded it (I don’t know who that was).

Dear Colleagues,

You may have already heard about the tragic death of Professor Stefan Grimm a former member of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College. He died suddenly and unexpectedly in early October. As yet there is no report about the cause of his death. Some two weeks later a delayed email from him was received by many of the senior staff of the medical school, and other researchers worldwide. It has been forwarded to me by one of my research collaborators. From my reading of it I believe that Stefan wanted it circulated as widely as possible and for that reason I am sending it to you. It is appended below.

This email represents just one side of an acrimonious dispute, but it may be indicative of more deep seated problems.

best wishes

Begin forwarded message:
From: Stefan Grimm <>
Date: 21 October 2014 23:41:03 BST
Subject: How Professors are treated at Imperial College

Dear all,
If anyone is interested how Professors are treated at Imperial College: Here is my story.

On May 30th ’13 my boss, Prof Martin Wilkins, came into my office together with his PA and ask me what grants I had. After I enumerated them I was told that this was not enough and that I had to leave the College within one year – “max” as he said. He made it clear that he was acting on behalf of Prof Gavin Screaton, the then head of the Department of Medicine, and told me that I would have a meeting with him soon to be sacked. Without any further comment he left my office. It was only then that I realized that he did not even have the courtesy to close the door of my office when he delivered this message. When I turned around the corner I saw a student who seems to have overheard the conversation looking at me in utter horror.

Prof Wilkins had nothing better to do than immediately inform my colleagues in the Section that he had just sacked me.

Why does a Professor have to be treated like that?

All my grant writing stopped afterwards, as I was waiting for the meeting to get sacked by Prof Screaton. This meeting, however, never took place.

In March ’14 I then received the ultimatum email below. 200,000 pounds research income every year is required. Very interesting. I was never informed about this before and cannot remember that this is part of my contract with the College. Especially interesting is the fact that the required 200,000 pounds could potentially also be covered by smaller grants but in my case a programme grant was expected.

Our 135,000 pounds from the University of Dammam? Doesn’t count. I have to say that it was a lovely situation to submit grant applications for your own survival with such a deadline. We all know what a lottery grant applications are.

There was talk that the Department had accepted to be in dept for some time and would compensate this through more teaching. So I thought that I would survive. But the email below indicates otherwise. I got this after the student for whom I “have plans” received the official admission to the College as a PhD student. He waited so long to work in our group and I will never be able to tell him that this should now not happen. What these guys don’t know is that they destroy lives. Well, they certainly destroyed mine.

The reality is that these career scientists up in the hierarchy of this organization only look at figures to judge their colleagues, be it impact factors or grant income. After all, how can you convince your Department head that you are working on something exciting if he not even attends the regular Departmental seminars? The aim is only to keep up the finances of their Departments for their own career advancement.

These formidable leaders are playing an interesting game: They hire scientists from other countries to submit the work that they did abroad under completely different conditions for the Research Assessment that is supposed to gauge the performance of British universities.

Afterwards they leave them alone to either perform with grants or being kicked out. Even if your work is submitted to this Research Assessment and brings in money for the university, you are targeted if your grant income is deemed insufficient. Those submitted to the research assessment hence support those colleagues who are unproductive but have grants. Grant income is all that counts here, not scientific output.

We had four papers with original data this year so far, in Cell Death and Differentiation, Oncogene, Journal of Cell Science and, as I informed Prof Wilkins this week, one accepted with the EMBO Journal. I was also the editor of a book and wrote two reviews. Doesn’t count.
This leads to a interesting spin to the old saying “publish or perish”. Here it is “publish and perish”.

Did I regret coming to this place? I enormously enjoyed interacting with my science colleagues here, but like many of them, I fell into the trap of confusing the reputation of science here with the present reality. This is not a university anymore but a business with very few up in the hierarchy, like our formidable duo, profiteering and the rest of us are milked for money, be it professors for their grant income or students who pay 100 pounds just to extend their write-up status.

If anyone believes that I feel what my excellent coworkers and I have accomplished here over the years is inferior to other work, is wrong. With our apoptosis genes and the concept of Anticancer Genes we have developed something that is probably much more exciting than most other projects, including those that are heavily supported by grants.

Was I perhaps too lazy? My boss smugly told me that I was actually the one professor on the whole campus who had submitted the highest number of grant applications. Well, they were probably simply not good enough.

I am by far not the only one who is targeted by those formidable guys. These colleagues only keep quiet out of shame about their situation. Which is wrong. As we all know hitting the sweet spot in bioscience is simply a matter of luck, both for grant applications and publications.
Why does a Professor have to be treated like that?

One of my colleagues here at the College whom I told my story looked at me, there was a silence, and then said: “Yes, they treat us like sh*t”.

Best regards,
Stefan Grimm

There is now a way for staff to register their opinions of their employers.The entries for Imperial College on suggest that bullying there is widespread (on contrast, the grumbles about UCL are mostly about lack of space).

Googling ‘imperial college employment tribunal’ shows a history of bullying that is not publicised. In fact victims are often forced to sign gagging clauses. In fairness, shows that the problems are not unique to Imperial. Over 3 years (it isn’t clear which years), 810 university staff went to employment tribunals. And 5528 staff were gagged. Not a proud record Imperial’s Department of Medicine web site says that one of its aims is to “build a strong and supportive academic community”. Imperial’s spokesman said “Stefan Grimm was a valued member of the Faculty of Medicine”.

The ability of large organisations to tell barefaced lies never ceases to amaze me.

I asked Martin Wilkins to comment on the email from Grimm. His response is the standard stuff that HR issues on such occasions. Not a word of apology, no admission of fault. It says “Imperial College London seeks to give every member of its community the opportunity to excel and to create a supportive environment in which their careers may flourish.”. Unless, that is, your research is insufficiently expensive, in which case we’ll throw you out on the street at 51. For completeness, you can download Wilkins’ mail.

If anyone has more correspondence which ought to be known, please send it to me. I don’t reveal sources (if you prefer, use my non-College email david.colquhoun72 (at)


November 29, 2014

Imperial College London to ‘review procedures’ after death of academic - A matter for his family?

Imperial College London is to examine its staff policies after the death of an academic who was believed to have been placed under a performance review.

Stefan Grimm, professor of toxicology in the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial, was found dead in Northwood, Middlesex, in September. An inquest was opened and adjourned at the West London District Coroner’s Court on 8 October.

Speaking to Times Higher Education on condition of anonymity, two academics who knew Professor Grimm, who was 51, said that he had complained of being placed under undue pressure by the university in the months leading up to his death, and that he had been placed on performance review.

He is understood to have been unsuccessful in a number of grant applications, and to have been told that if he continued to struggle in this regard his job would be at risk.

The academics said Professor Grimm had felt let down by Imperial and did not feel he was given sufficient support in the months leading up to his death.

THE understands that shortly before he died, Professor Grimm asked not be named as the corresponding author on one of his recently published papers, and one of his colleagues took on the role instead.

A spokeswoman for Imperial said that the college would provide “all the assistance it can” as the statutory authorities conduct their investigation, and that the university was to conduct its own review.

“Following Professor Grimm’s death, Imperial’s provost has tasked the director of human resources and one of the college’s senior elected academic representatives to review the relevant college policies and procedures,” she said.

“Their report will be considered by a senior group led by the provost, and the college will move swiftly to implement any recommendations.”

Her statement also says: “Imperial College London seeks to give every member of its community the opportunity to excel and to create a supportive environment in which their careers may flourish.
“As with all serious and tragic events involving the loss of life of serving staff or current students, the college conducts appropriate reviews of the circumstances in order to see whether wider lessons may be drawn.

“At a time when family, friends, colleagues and students are still coming to terms with a death, it is important to undertake any reviews in a manner that respects these sensitivities, and that does not create a more difficult or challenging environment for those people.”

In response to claims that the university had not circulated information to colleagues of Professor Grimm, other than a short announcement of his death, the spokeswoman said she was “aware that a number of Stefan’s former colleagues and students have written an obituary and have submitted it to one of Nature’s publications”. She said that Imperial was “planning to republish this, with permission, when it appears”.

Details of Professor Grimm’s funeral, she added, were “a matter for the family”.


November 22, 2014

Bullying at the Democratic Republic of bULlySTER University - An Introduction

In this first of an occasional series on the most despotic university in these islands, we would like to introduce you to the university's current dictator, President (definitely-not-for-life) Pritchard Farnett and his “Cabinet of Horrors”... sorry, I mean senior management team... Like many a uni expansionist Pritch interpreted BU's old motto "to build anew" rather too literally and has reduced both his finances and a big district of Belslow, literally to rubble. Possessed with unhealthy ambitions of college lebensraum "Bully Farnett" came unstuck with his central Belslow campus vision. In fact unlike the Pyongyang based Mr. Kim, Pritch met the fate of many erstwhile uni super-thugs, known in the murky trade of college politics as "Gadaffi's end". Pritch is now on life-support having recently been shafted by his University Council, and will not remain dictator indefinitely. Like the late Libyan Colonel, BU's “lame-duck” President finally got a touch of his own unpleasant medicine as the uni Council forgiving the concurrence of any two (but not three) Presidential neuroses, ultimately deduced their strong man possessed a super-abundance of them all-myopia, incompetence and odiousness. Slightly more reticent than his immediate predecessor, the ousted Gerry "Black Bush" McKenna (a BU despot famed for outrageous drunkenness at University Senate) Farnett prefers “delegated genocide", never wishing to get professorial blood on his decidedly off-the-peg suits. But like Gerry, Pritchy also espoused too literally the word "Vice" in "University Vice-Chancellorship" until his campus "killing fields" finally caught up with him.
There comes a time in every dictatorship when cupboards are just too full of academic corruption, closets unhealthily brimful of skeletons, and college basements overrun with the putrefying corpses of sacked lecturers. And so it came to pass that after almost a decade of staff harassment, financial mismanagement, dismal planning and ungodly governance, Pritch finally got it in his own nuts. So indeed even now Pritchard is busily packing his suitcases with his ill-gotten gains of college dictatorship, including his proudly sported Rolex - sorry name drop - , a bribe for passing all those illiterate students his university loves to recruit from the Middle East. Some would say that he single-handedly brought BU to its knees, but that would mean air-brushing out the rest of the college mafia, the top uni managers who collectively sunk the “good ship bULlySTER”. So with displeasure, I solemnly introduce to you Pritch's evil horrible in appearance as they are singularly heartless. This is a university "A Team" which makes Capone's gangsters look like an ensemble of choir-boys.
Let’s start with a vulgar creature who might seem more lion-tamer than human resources gopher in BU's grisly Zoo, one Ronald MacDonald, the university's Chief Torturer and Executioner. This is a ghoulish man allegedly responsible for scores of destroyed careers, several staff suicides, numerous forced redundancies and whose very presence is enough to panic the university's immiserated working population. Ronald who allegedly found "student love" is to inter-personal relationships what Hannibal Letcher is to dinner-time entertainment. This self-confessed socio-path  particularly enjoys his job portfolio of "discipline" but rumours are his days are numbered. Having already been formally suspended, his sojourn as BU arch henchman may expire with his master's departure.
Also introducing Deborah Keenan, Minister of Mis - communication, a lady with a penchant for self-promotion, TV cameras and conjugating in uniform, and who at an early point in her career realized the best route to promotion was not a vertical trajectory but horizontal conviviality. "All frock and no filo-facts" Deborah had a brief career as a telly don until the questions finally proved too difficult under the glare of live TV. Intensely grilled by BBC bULlySTER journalists her sickly smile could no longer disguise her intellectual emptiness and she vanished amidst vapors of Austin's couture and cheap perfume.
Pugh Antenna is Chief of Research and Innovation, sometime country and western crooner and defrocked nurse with all the comforting manners of a pedophile priest. Always a bit crazy, Pugh’s start in mental health nursing was a good preparation for the mad-house of BU. It's oft said in health-care a good bed-side manner is critical but Pugh quickly became known in the uni as "`Nurse Death", harkening back to  his days as Southern Board’s cruel matron espousing the doctrine of "cure or kill". He's put those instincts to use flogging the university’s research arm.
Our Finance Chief (appropriately named) Pete Despair, has labored for years imaginatively mis-juggling the finances of a “no hope" uni. While employed to cook the university books, Pete is a discreet specimen who is actually better known for having almost lost his wife to the uni's former HR director, Brendan “Halifax" Hamilton. Brendan started off his career threatening trainee bank clerks! The latter's liaison with (and unlucky gift of a watch to) Mr. Despair's wife (dishonestly purloined with a university credit card) persuaded BU to call time on Hamilton’s job. Our friend "Axe man" Ronald MacDonald was instrumental in his former boss's demise! That left the Despair couple intact and despite the bad times for university finance, the name-card on Pete's door remains the only "hope" left in the entire campus.
We would also like to mention Fred Astaire, perhaps a reluctant thug, who asks forgiveness to his God at night for every poor soul he persecutes. Professor of Property Investment and an expert on the Built Environment, Fred may just be a little too principled for the rest of the management team. Not keen on the university's expansion plan he may survive Farnett's departure but somehow lacks the unwavering ruthlesness needed for the BU "killing machine". It remains to be seen whether he will suffer the fate of another college "year zero" or may yet be the liberator after years of oppression.
Then we have Richie Killar in Planning & Partnerships whose former department accidentally admitted scores of failed students. A man with a mission, this muscular (or maybe just overweight) Christian is proud to be a leading light of British Computing and can rugby-tackle the scrum of bULlySTER university politics. Indeed his rise was achieved at the expense of BU strong-woman Anne Moran. A former school teacher, Anne was dubbed “Miss Moron" but her sharpened stilettos bludgeoned their way to university power despite her impressive ignorance. Finally Prof Killar slew this she-dragon in a manner that would have made St George proud.
It is hard to find anything interesting to say about Davina MacBribster, Teaching and Learning Supremo except that like many health academics if you linger too long around her she is decidedly "bad for your health". Leading “Quality Assurance and Enhancement”, Davina would hardly recognize quality if it hit her with a rock.
Finally, Estates Director Faddy Donut the "man without a plan”. Trusted  to spin the uni's expansion and collect back-handers from property moguls, Faddy was almost sacked for being caught in coition with a former lady dean in a college store-room. Unlucky enough to be discovered by an evangelical security guard the latter's complaints about Faddy's impropriety could not be silenced. BU took the predicable decision to lance the boil. They promptly made the poor Christian security man forcibly redundant and let Faddy letch on.
That's all for now from the Democratic Republic of bULlySTER University. You've met the entire kitchen cabinet, the whole hellish rogue’s gallery. Next time we'll introduce you to the university deanship, known popularly as "Prich’s dunderheads" at least one of whom does not even possess an undergraduate degree. With such an august team of over-promoted dunces it is hardly surprising that some BU boffins think a "Dean's List" is something you'd find in a posh restaurant. So bon appétit from the cannibals of bULlySTER University!

November 08, 2014


During one of the many times I was bullied by my last department head while I was teaching, I suggested that we go to mediation. I thought that since we couldn't arrive at a resolution that we both could agree to by ourselves, perhaps a third party could help. Maybe there was something at least one of us were missing.

Did it help? Of course not. I only succeeded in making him mad. He pounded his fist on the table, said he wanted nothing to do with that "mediation BS" (or words to that effect) and added: "I will deal with you as your supervisor!" The fact that I suggested mediation, which he refused, meant nothing to the dean. He himself was only to glad to be rid of me and I'm sure my telling him that only made him more determined.

One word of advice. NEVER rely on your staff association or union. It may be working with the management as collaborators and, yes, it happened to me. My department head put all sorts of defamatory material in my personnel file without my knowledge. This was contrary to regulations as not only was I to receive copies of such submissions, I had the right to offer a rebuttal. The president of our staff association at the time received copies of that material, as did the dean. For some mysterious reason, not only was my name left off the circulation list, I had no knowledge of it.


November 05, 2014

Culture of cruelty: why bullying thrives in higher education

Why employees bully other employees is a question academics have sought to answer since the 1990s.

The perspective proposed by Swedish psychologist Heinz Leymann, father of workplace bullying research, is that we bully one another because of factors within our work environment, including the nature of our work and organisational culture.

Characteristics of our jobs, such as low autonomy, boring tasks, unclear roles and high workload have all been implicated as possible causes of bullying. Employees working in uninspiring jobs may be tempted to enact destructive behaviour as a source of stimulation, whereas individuals stressed out by heavy workloads may perpetrate bullying to cope with frustration or to assert personal control.

What causes bullying: personality or environment?

Bullying may be further facilitated by organisational cultures and structures that permit it. In certain organisational cultures, bullying is a means of achieving goals, and in cultures characterised by high internal competition, it may be the most effective way of improving reputation and climbing the latter. Reward systems can sometimes provoke bullying as aggressive tactics could be thought the best way to rid supervisors of either underperforming, or overperforming subordinates.

The other perspective on why adults bully concerns personality factors. An overarching personality profile cannot be applied to bullies or victims, however some consistent themes are apparent.

Traits associated with bullies include narcissism, unstable self-esteem, anxiety and a lack of social competence, likewise traits linked to victims are vulnerability, low self-esteem and a propensity to experience negative emotion.

The vulnerable victim is one typology associated with victimised individuals, but there is a growing body of evidence which suggests that victims share the same personality traits as perpetrators, leading to suggestions that perpetrators and victims can hold both roles.

Another view concerns interpersonal differences, as individuals who possess traits that differentiate them from the rest of the workgroup can make them vulnerable to bullying. For instance, in workplaces dominated by men, woman are more likely to be bullied and vice versa.

Research continues to address the causes of bullying, but perhaps surprisingly those investigating it are themselves operating in a risk sector as high levels of bullying are consistently reported in higher education.

In the UK, the overall prevalence of workplace bullying – based on the proportion of working people who have experienced it – across all working sectors is usually estimated at between 10-20%.

However the percentage of people who have experienced bullying within academic settings is higher than the national average. UK higher education studies have found the percentage of people experiencing it ranges between 18% to 42%.

Undermining behaviour: part of the job for academics?

Initially, it seems strange that more bullying occurs in higher education, as academic jobs are still characterised by large amounts of personal autonomy and the academy promotes values of collegiality and civility. However, a closer inspection can provide clues as to why bullying occurs in this context.

Cultures where bullying flourishes have been characterised as competitive, adversarial and politicised. While academia can be on occasion adversarial, it is more commonly competitive and political. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the bullying behaviours most cited within academic contexts – threats to professional status and obstructive behaviours, designed to inhibit employees achieving their goals.

A Canadian study explored academic bullying behaviours in more depth, finding that having your contributions ignored, being the subject of gossip and being undermined and belittled in front of others were the behaviours most commonly experienced.

In the higher education context where discussion, debate and criticism are encouraged, behaviours directed at undermining another individual can be more easily justified as part of the job. While competition for limited research resources may lead to displays of power and hidden agendas that can make the wider academic context even more toxic.

Furthermore, the “publish or perish” mentality, combined with teaching students and grant submission targets contribute to inherent role conflict. Such daily demands inhibit the ability of some academics to cope with bullying, and demands cause stress which may lead otherwise rational people to engage in bullying as the spiral of work pressure increases.

Due to a lack of available research, it is unclear whether bullying is getting worse in academia, although Jamie Lester, author of the book Workplace bullying in higher education feels it is on the rise. It has been noted that higher education has become more competitive and hierarchical which may facilitate greater levels of bullying.

However without documenting the rates of bullying in academic contexts over time it is impossible to discern whether the problem is getting worse. For this reason it has been suggested that academic institutions benchmark the nature and prevalence of bullying behaviours, while providing education and guidelines designed to reinstate the more collegial culture that academia may have lost.

So how can employees beat bullying? Here’s what to do if you are facing bullying at work:

• Firstly, don’t blame yourself – this will only make you feel worse.
• Keep a written record of events, along with any evidence of negative acts (eg emails, written correspondence).
• Seek informal resolution early in the conflict – speaking to the perpetrator early on may enable resolution without formal approaches that can be lengthy and stressful.
• If the bullying persists, identify whether your organisation has a grievance policy and report the problem to a relevant individual eg union representative, HR manager, line manager or occupational health adviser.
• Discuss it with your support network inside and outside of work. Support is also available from charitable organisations. For instance, the mental health charity Mind can offer support via phone (0300 123 3393) and email (

Sam Farley is a doctoral researcher at the Institute of Work Psychology (IWP), Sheffield University Management School – follower him on Twitter: @sam_farley3

Christine Sprigg is a lecturer in occupational psychology at IWP, Sheffield University Management School 


October 25, 2014

Bullying in academia: ‘professors are supposed to be stressed! That’s the job’

Bullying is rife in academia – and it is tolerated to an extent that wouldn’t be acceptable in other areas. I’ve seen careers wasted in academia just by bad management and bad practice. My story is an illustration of what can go wrong.

Shortly after I moved from my old university to a new job as head of a science research centre at a Russell Group university, my partner and I were hit by a series of problems in my immediate family. It started when a number of family members were diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses. We had to make regular visits and provide a lot of support. But the worst was yet to come – a horrific family tragedy, which was devastating for us all.

At the same time, my new role was a busy, high-profile job that included being on the executive committee for a major international journal and two UK funding committees. We’d had a reorganisation in the faculty and an extra layer of management was inserted. It was made clear to some members of the research group that performance had to be outstanding.

My newly-appointed line manager came to see me just as I was about to go home on a Friday evening. He asked me how things were. I said, “Oh, I’m absolutely stuffed, I’ve got no energy, I’m worn out.” He replied, “I’m not here to talk about that – I’m here to talk about your research performance.” In the discussion that followed he told me I should change the focus of our research. I explained that the work we were doing was slow and painstaking, but significant.

He was adamant about changing the focus, and I started to get more and more stressed. It was before the last research assessment exercise (RAE), and the vice-chancellor was saying he wanted the university to be in the world top 50 rankings, so my line manager was taking this as an excuse to do all sorts of things.

Other members of staff in my group would come to me saying, “I feel I’m being bullied, I’m being squeezed out, I’m being threatened.” We also had a regular monthly group meeting that I inherited from my predecessor. My line manager came and said, “I don’t want you to have these any more, I see it as divisive.” I think it was a threat to his autonomy.

I went to see a university counsellor, who I think was probably more used to stories about people’s PhD supervisors giving them a hard time. I told him my story and I could see his eyebrows shooting through the top of his head.

I had a couple of meetings with him. At the start of the third one, the fire alarm went, and we had to evacuate the building. Outside he said, “I’m really sorry about that, but I’ll call you to arrange another appointment”. But he never called. So I think it was actually too much for him.
I started to drink a lot. The pressure and weight of responsibility continued both at home and in work, so I went to see my doctor, who made an emergency referral to a specialist counsellor.

Then as it was getting closer to the RAE, my line manager called to see me. He said, “I want you to do this extra thing for the RAE.” I said, “I’ve got enough on, and I’m not adding to my stress.” He shouted at me, “You’re supposed to be stressed! Professors here are supposed to be stressed! That’s the job.” I said, “With all due respect, I don’t think any other professor in our faculty has had the stress I’ve had to cope with in the past year.”

He told me that a lot of people were stressed, and he still wanted me to do the additional work. At that point I started to look for a way out, and when the university was looking for ways to save money, they sent an email around saying that they were reorganising and would offer voluntary redundancy, which I decided to take. I was 48.

I put in a watertight succession plan with funding agencies to make sure that the person I’d recruited to my group as a lecturer could take everything over. I know that if I hadn’t done that, my manager would have dispersed my lab and my equipment, and absorbed it into the greater group.

In other industries, the human resources departments are really strong on bullying, and if there is any accusation of bullying, it’s taken seriously. But in academia, there’s a culture that the line manager or head of department has absolute power. They can make or break your career, and people very rarely go to HR. I have spent several years working for a drug company and there the climate was much more professional. You were trained to look after the people in your group and to look out for any warning signs. UK universities are 10 or 20 years behind.

Unfortunately, instead of institutions being encouraged to work together, we are now expected to compete against each other for the same, smaller pot of money. Until that changes, I expect the bullying culture to continue.

Are you being / have you been bullied in your job in higher education? Help us understand more about this issue by completing our survey

If you have been affected by any of the issues mentioned in this piece, contact Samaritans or National Bullying Helpline.

Would you like to write for Academics Anonymous? Do you have an idea for a blog post about the trials, tribulations and frustrations of university life? Get in touch:


September 28, 2014

Marina Warner compares UK university managers to 'Chinese communist enforcers'

The chair of judges for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize has delivered a blistering broadside against her former university employers comparing higher education managers to unquestioningly obedient Chinese communist officials. Writing in the London Review of Books, Marina Warner said she felt “pushed” into resigning her role earlier this summer as a professor in the department of literature, film and theatre studies at the University of Essex where she had taught for the past decade.

The acclaimed author and academic accused institutions of being forced into competing against each like high street supermarkets in the search for profits.

She said changes to the higher education sector had resulted in “one-size-fits-all contracts, inflexible timetables, overflowing workloads, overcrowded classes” which were harming teachers and students whilst benefiting the growing armies of administrators.

“Among the scores of novels I am reading for the Man Booker International are many Chinese novels, and the world of Chinese communist corporatism, as ferociously depicted by their authors, keeps reminding me of higher education here, where enforcers rush to carry out the latest orders from their chiefs in an ecstasy of obedience to ideological principles which they do not seem to have examined, let alone discussed with the people they order to follow them, whom they cashier when they won’t knuckle under,” she wrote.

Ms Warner, who is also a fellow of All Souls Oxford, accused Essex of becoming a “for-profit” enterprise and betraying its radical founding principles which saw it become a hotbed of counter cultural protest in the 1960s and 70s.

She said that research was no longer a guarantor of external funding and that the emphasis had been put on increasing student numbers.

“So the tactics to bring in money are changing. Students, especially foreign students who pay higher fees, offer a glittering solution,” she wrote.

Ms Warner said she eventually decided to resign after being asked to take a year’s unpaid leave when her “workload allocation” became impossible to reconcile with her outside roles, which she said she had been encouraged to accept.

“The model for higher education mimics supermarkets’ competition on the high street; the need for external funding pits one institution against another – and even one colleague against another, and young scholars waste their best energies writing grant proposals.

“Eventually, after a protracted rigmarole, I resigned. I felt I had been pushed,” she added.

“What is happening at Essex reflects on the one hand the general distortions required to turn a university into a for-profit business – one advantageous to administrators and punitive to teachers and scholars – and on the other reveals a particular, local interpretation of the national policy. The senate and councils of a university like Essex, and most of the academics who are elected by colleagues to govern, have been caught unawares by their new masters, their methods and their assertion of power,” she wrote.

A spokesman for the university said: “At the University of Essex, students are our priority and we are committed to delivering a transformational educational experience, where students are taught by the leading thinkers in their field and have the opportunity to undertake research. Excellence in education and research are our two priorities and they enjoy equal esteem.”


September 20, 2014

Bullying and academic culture

...Several aspects of academia lend themselves to the practice and discourage its reporting and mitigation. Its leadership is usually drawn from the ranks of faculty, most of whom have not received the management training that could enable an effective response to such situations. The perpetrators may possess tenure — a high-status and protected position – or the victims may belong to the increasing number of adjunct professors, who are often part-time employees.

Academic mobbing is arguably the most prominent type of bullying in academia. Academic victims of bullying may also be particularly conflict-averse.

The generally decentralized nature of academic institutions can make it difficult for victims to seek recourse, and appeals to outside authority have been described as "the kiss of death."

Therefore, academics who are subject to bullying in workplace are often cautious about notifying problems. Social media is recently used to reveal bullying in academia anonymously. Bullying research credits an organizational rift in two interdependent and adversarial systems that comprise a larger structure of nearly all colleges and universities worldwide: faculty and administration. While both systems distribute employee power across standardized bureaucracies, administrations favor an ascription-oriented business model with a standardized criteria determining employee rank.

Faculty depend on greater open-ended and improvised standards that determine rank and job retention. The leveraged intradepartmental peer reviews (although often at a later time, these three reviews are believed to be leveraged by the fact the peers determine promotions of one another at later times) of faculty for annual reappointment of tenure-track, tenure, and post-tenure review is believed to offer "unregulated gray area" that nurture the origin of bullying cases in academia.

Although tenure and post-tenure review lead to interdepartmental evaluation, and all three culminate in an administrative decision, bullying is commonly a function of administrative input before or during the early stages of departmental review...