THE carries a report today on SBCS lecturer Dr Fanis Missirilis who is now being investigated by Human Resources for questioning the ongoing restructuring of his School and SMD. He is accused of having brought the Head of School in SBCS and the research dean of SMD “into disrepute”. If the investigation escalates into a full disciplinary procedure he could face dismissal. QM UCU considers this a very alarming turn of events and is providing assistance.

Update 1.6.12: THE confirms that the co-author of Dr Missirilis’s letter, Prof John Allen, is also being disciplined.

The following, posted by someone on the original story, is germane:

During a long standing dispute between the University College of Swansea and its internal critics – that raised fundamental questions about the impact of commercial pressures on education – the then Principal of the University of Swansea, Professor Brian Clarkson was quoted in the Times Higher Education Supplement of 14 June 1991 as saying, “…If this had happened in a company, and I had been managing director, those people would have been kicked up the road the moment they kicked up the fuss they did. They would have taken us to an industrial tribunal but they would have been off the payroll….”,

Referring to this quotation in his Davies Report, the former High Court Judge, Sir Michael Davies, appointed by Her Majesty the Queen to resolve the dispute wrote:

“….Whether that was a precisely accurate quotation is immaterial. The point is that neither the University of Wales nor the University College of Swansea is ‘a company’ in the profit-making or any other sense. They are academic institutions. I believe that this has not always been remembered in Swansea….

…Here the terms of the Education Reform Act 1988 are relevant. Section 202(2) of the Act provides that in exercising their statutory functions the University Commissioners shall have regard to the need: ‘(a) to ensure that academic staff have freedom within the law to question and test received wisdom, and to put forward new ideas and controversial or unpopular opinions, without placing themselves in jeopardy of losing their jobs or privileges they may have at their institutions; (b) to enable qualifying institutions to provide education, promote learning and engage in research efficiently and economically; and (c) to apply the principles of justice and fairness.’…

…In my opinion, the Visitor should be guided by these principles. Of course, they do not mean that academic staff have unrestricted licence. Obviously not. They have to obey the law, Criminal and Civil, and there are other circumstances which may place them ‘in jeopardy of losing their jobs’. The Establishment says that the Critics at Swansea have indeed overstepped that line. However, in drawing that line, in my opinion the fact that it is a line to be drawn in an adult academic world and not in a commercial jungle is of profound importance….”

Sir Michael also found that, notwithstanding the fact that two academics “were not only extremely annoying to the Establishment but in some respects went too far…. their criticisms were often framed in extravagant language…they were too ready to open their mouths too wide and too loudly to students and the media, resulting in breach of confidence…”, these were outweighed by three principles: Academic Freedom, Basis for the criticisms and Natural Justice.

Reference: The Davies Report (1994): “The Great Battle in Swansea”, Thoemmes Press, Bristol.

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