Wives of straying academics form support group

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The Independent Online
A SUPPORT group for wives whose husbands in academia have deserted them for students has been set up on the Internet. It was created by Jean Norris, whose husband, a social science lecturer at Southampton Institute, had relationships with more than one student. She said the response had been "enormous".

Her story is told in today's education section of The Independent. Mrs Norris will not say how many people have contacted her since the group was established on the Internet 10 days ago but she said: "It is common for academic men to have affairs with female students. I know that it's rife. It's endemic in universities and colleges. But they won't address it."

Students who have had affairs with academics and those who have witnessed staff- student relationships have also been in touch.

One person who contacted Mrs Norris said they were penalised and intimidated by the academic hierarchy when they tried to bring an affair out into the open.

Both the lecturers' unions have codes of conduct that cover the issue of affairs between dons and students. The Association of University Teachers says that such relationships raise questions of conflict of interests and may mean that students are not treated equally.

Paul Norris was disciplined by his managers at Southampton Institute six years ago for having an affair. Mrs Norris has named a second student in her divorce action.

The institute has rules that prevent lecturers supervising a student with whom they are having a relationship and which say that any affairs must be declared to heads of department.

Lawyers are understood to have told the institute that Mr Norris' behaviour did not provide grounds for dismissal.

Mr Norris said that he did not begin his latest relationship with a student, a 21-year-old, until June last year after he had left his wife.

"The dean was informed. I had nothing to do with the student's work. All her course work and examination papers went to the external examiners," he said.

Mrs Norris believes that universities should go further in disciplining academics who have affairs with students. She wants the lecturer to be suspended at once and a formal inquiry, whose results will be made public.

The affair should remain permanently on an academic's record, she says.

Higher love is so low, Education, page 2.