Burrows v University of York

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					Burrows v University of York
(Visitor (University)) Visitor to the University

Judge: Lord Irvine of Lairg


Subject: Education

Keywords: Grievance procedures; Jurisdiction; Promotion; Universities; Visitors

Catchphrases: universities; grievance procedures; lecturer sought promotion to
professor; grievance committee's failure to consider confidential information;
jurisdiction of Visitor included conduct of grievance procedure

Abstract: B, a lecturer at UY, was unsuccessful in two applications for promotion to a
personal chair and complained to the grievance committee. B contended that the failure
of UY to provide the committee with certain confidential information which had been
put before the promotions committee meant that the grievance procedure was
fundamentally flawed, since his complaint could not be fully investigated without
knowledge of the information. B petitioned the University Visitor and a preliminary
issue arose for determination as to whether the Visitor had jurisdiction to deal with B's
complaint, under the Education Reform Act 1988 s. 206(1) which provided, inter alia,
that the Visitor had no jurisdiction in disputes arising from the employment or
appointment of academic staff.
    Summary: Held, allowing the petition, that (1) s. 206 did not affect the Visitor's
jurisdiction over disputes relating to the conduct of internal grievance procedures;
jurisdiction would only be excluded where the dispute directly concerned appointment
or employment; (2) the grievance committee's consideration of B's complaint was
inadequate insofar as it failed to deal with the impact of the confidential documents on
the first stage of the promotions process. The committee should at least have required
UY to identify the confidential material that contained evidence of the "negative
element" which the Vice Chancellor claimed influenced the promotions committee.
Their failure to do so meant that they were unable to determine whether that committee
had properly followed its own procedures in having recourse only to the confidential
report by B's head of department, C, or whether access was improperly had to other
confidential documents of which B had no knowledge. The proceedings before the
grievance committee were accordingly flawed; (3) the reasons given by UY for
maintaining confidentiality of C's report to the promotions committee were, in the
circumstances of the instant case, outweighed by the need for the grievance committee
to examine the contents of that report in order to consider whether a bona fide academic
judgment had been made, based on reliable evidence and in particular whether there was
any evidence in C's report of matters referred to by the vice chancellor. A new grievance
committee should be convened to consider whether there was any irregularity in the
promotions committee's proceedings.

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