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Confusion reigns over 'retirement' of Abertay Dundee principal

A dispute has broken out at the University of Abertay Dundee after its suspended principal denied that he had retired.

Last Friday, the university said that Bernard King had retired, following his suspension in February.

But today Professor King said that he had not retired and was still negotiating the terms of a contract extension agreed last year, calling the university’s actions “unfair and unlawful”.

He received a letter several weeks ago from the university stating that he was officially retired following his 65th birthday, a spokesperson for Professor King said.

He decided to rebut the letter publicly after weekend news reports claimed that he had retired.

“He has indeed received correspondence from the university court intimating that he is now retired. However, this is not accepted by Professor King,” the statement says.

“His position is that he has not retired and he remains in dispute with the university over the terms of an extension of contract agreed with the university last year.”

Professor King is currently preparing for an employment tribunal later in the year over alleged age discrimination.

“The principal's claims of age discrimination and whistle-blowing in relation to actions taken to address allegations of bullying and intimidation of members of staff remain the subject of employment tribunal proceedings which will take place later this year.

“Professor King’s solicitors have advised that the current actions of the university are both unfair and unlawful,” the statement says.

“The matter is in the hands of Professor King’s lawyers who are attempting to engage with the university court to agree mediation in the hope that the need for further legal proceedings can be avoided.”

On 1 July, the university said that Professor King had retired, and that there were “also a number of outstanding issues relating to Professor King’s employment that remain to be resolved.”

Professor King was suspended alongside his deputy, Nicholas Terry, at the beginning of February in the midst of what one source described as a “war” between senior managers.

At the time, the source said that the final breakdown in relations had come about over disagreements over a series of financial decisions at the institution.

The university maintained that the Professor King and Professor Terry had been suspended for separate issues, and the Professor Terry was swiftly reinstated and made acting principal. Professor King had been the convener of Universities Scotland and a strong critic of tuition fee rises in England.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

Abertay Dundee statement:

A spokesman for Abertay Dundee said: “Our position remains that Professor King’s retirement took effect on Friday 1 July and that we will not comment on current unresolved issues relating to his former employment.
“However, we would like to make it clear that Professor King was first given notice of his retirement date in early December, and the university has sent further correspondence since that date about various aspects of his retirement.
“Today’s statement – which we only heard about through the media – is the first intimation we have had of Professor King’s clarification of his position relative to his retirement. We welcome the commitment made by his lawyers to the desirability of continued negotiation so as to avoid further legal proceedings.”

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