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Warwick UCU calls for Thomas Docherty to be reinstated

Union members have called for a prominent critic of higher education policy to be returned to work after he was suspended by the University of Warwick.

Thomas Docherty, University of Warwick

Source: Alamy

University and College Union members at Warwick yesterday passed a motion in support of Thomas Docherty, professor of English and comparative literature and author of For the University.

Warwick denies claims that the suspension of Professor Docherty, a former head of the English department, relates to his activism.

The UCU branch motion notes that Professor Docherty is “nationally known as an outspoken critic of many current trends in UK higher education” and that “he has been absent from his post for a number of weeks without explanation”.

It adds that “the procedural irregularities and lack of transparency in this process violate the principles of natural justice and are having adverse effects on the well being and reputation of Thomas Docherty and the staff and students in the department and the university.

“Warwick UCU therefore calls for his immediate return to work.”

One academic wrote on Twitter that he had heard Professor Docherty had been “suspended indefinitely for anti-cuts activism”.

Warwick declined to comment on the UCU branch motion. A spokeswoman reiterated a previous statement, which said: “The university would not normally comment on internal staffing issues. In this case however, given inaccurate reports elsewhere, we would wish to confirm that a member of academic staff has been suspended pending formal disciplinary process.

“Contrary to those inaccurate reports elsewhere, the disciplinary allegations in no way relate to the content of the individual’s academic views or their views on HE policy.”

Professor Docherty is a member of the steering group of the Council for the Defence of British Universities and has written a number of opinion pieces for Times Higher Education criticising what he sees as the marketisation and bureaucratisation of higher education, as well as the sector’s leadership.

A 2013 article on mission groups described the Russell Group, of which Warwick is a member, as “a self-declared elite…even exerting a negative influence over others”.

john.morgan@tsleducation.com

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Readers' comments (4)

  • Where is UCU when it comes to speaking on behalf of Prof Sarah Sayce of Kingston University, who was suspended for speaking out against closure of the School of Planning and Surveying?

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  • Fanis Missirlis

    A report on Prof Sarah Sayce of Kingston University:

    http://www.riveronline.co.uk/content/2014/02/27/prof-kicked-campus

    I quote from

    http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php-URL_ID=13144&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

    "27. The maintaining of the above international standards should be upheld in the interest of higher education internationally and within the country. To do so, the principle of academic freedom should be scrupulously observed. Higher-education teaching personnel are entitled to the maintaining of academic freedom, that is to say, the right, without constriction by prescribed doctrine, to freedom of teaching and discussion, freedom in carrying out research and disseminating and publishing the results thereof, freedom to express freely their opinion about the institution or system in which they work, freedom from institutional censorship and freedom to participate in professional or representative academic bodies. All higher-education teaching personnel should have the right to fulfil their functions without discrimination of any kind and without fear of repression by the state or any other source. Higher-education teaching personnel can effectively do justice to this principle if the environment in which they operate is conducive, which requires a democratic atmosphere; hence the challenge for all of developing a democratic society."

    Can someone refute the following statement (my conclusion)?

    The United Kingdom is in violation of the UNESCO recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel as evidenced by the many instances where university managers frame and sack their ideological opponents.

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  • @FANIS MISSIRLIS - I can not only *not* refute your statement, but I can fully confirm it based on my own personal experience of teaching in the UK, an experience which, I can safely say, was not replicated in the US, where I've also taught.

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  • Fanis Missirlis

    Thank you Howard. Today I was sent the information below, which could suggest problems are present on both sides of the pond?

    http://www.thenation.com/article/178821/columbia-university-fired-two-eminent-public-intellectuals-heres-why-it-matters

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