Letter: Universities: a law unto themselves

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The Independent Online
Sir: John Torode's analysis of a particular case of mishandled university discipline may or may not have been over the top ('Open letter' to Kenneth Edwards, Chairman of the Committee of Vice- Chancellors and Principals, 19 April). However Dr Edwards' reply (Letters, 21 April) must have made the blood of any decent person run cold.

He says, of crimes such as 'slight damage to university property . . . the police do not normally wish to be involved with such minor offences and may well take no action. We are advised that the police would be happier for the university to act, rather than leave such minor offences unpunished.'

Nothing that Mr Torode wrote could have been as damning to the CVCP as that advocacy of taking the law into one's own hands, and the claim of official backing for it from the state.

This attitude towards students is extended to the treatment of staff in universities and other higher education colleges, backed in their case by substantial public resources and protected by gagging clauses of the type recently condemned by the National Audit Commission and the Committee of Public Accounts. For this reason, and the wider interests of institutions, my union, the Association of University and College Lecturers, has proposed the establishment of a Higher Education Ombudsman with powers of inquiry, review and redress.

Yours faithfully,

KATHLEEN HARRY

National Chairman

Association of University

& College Lecturers

Southsea, Hampshire

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