Lecturer 'was forced out of university job'

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A university lecturer was hounded from office after reporting that his college had made a bogus claim for EC education grants, an industrial tribunal was told yesterday.

Dr William Mallinson told the tribunal in Southampton that the directorate of Bournemouth Polytechnic - now a university - launched a campaign of harassment after he 'blew the whistle' on the fraud.

Dr Mallinson left the university with a pounds 35,000 pay-off in January this year, but said he was forced to sign the agreement to leave. He is claiming constructive dismissal.

He helped to set up the university's public relations degree course in the late 1980s, but said he ran into trouble when he reported that the head of his department, Professor Timothy Wheeler, had made an invalid claim for grants under the Erasmus programme for European co- operation in education.

Professor Wheeler had authorised fees for lectures supposedly conducted by three of the university's academics (including himself) at La Capienza, the University of Rome. But Dr Mallinson found that the lectures could not have taken place because of a student strike. An audit by Bournemouth University's accountants established that the claim should not have been made and, at the request of Erasmus, 4,000 ecu (then pounds 2,800) was repaid.

Dr Mallinson, a former diplomat fluent in five European languages, said he was subsequently removed without notice from a board preparing an MA course.

A confidential memo written by Michael Riordan, the director of personnel, suggested that Dr Mallinson should accept that he had a 'major health problem'; that management should decide he has 'an underlying personality trait' and remove him from the department; or that his contract should be terminated for 'some other substantial reason'.

Answering questions from Dr Mallinson, who is representing himself, a fellow-lecturer, Dr Bob Giddings, said: 'It was obvious you had come across something manifestly wrong, both morally and legally, and you put it right. And you were suffering for it.

'Getting rid of you from the MA course was like firing the only person who could read music from a symphony orchestra.'

Dr Giddings said Dr Mallinson was put under enormous pressure to leave. Bob Anderson, a senior lecturer in public relations and branch secretary for Natfhe, the higher education union, said: 'I was aware that Dr Mallinson was out of favour with the directorate and I advised him that he had become an irritant and that they would try to get rid of him.'

Dr Mallinson said he felt he had a gun at his head when he signed the leaving settlement. But Peter Clark, counsel for the university, said he knew it was a 'full and final' agreement properly negotiated between Dr Mallinson, Natfhe and the university.

Kevin Moloney, a fellow lecturer and the union official who negotiated the deal, rejected Dr Mallinson's claims that he was not aware a negotiating process was underway. Mr Moloney agreed that the university wanted to sack Dr Mallinson, but he added: 'You signed of your own volition.'

The hearing continues today.