Hundreds of academics at top UK universities accused of bullying

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Hundreds of academics at top UK universities accused of bullying | Senior professors among 300 people alleged to have shown aggressive attitude and behaviour towards students and colleagues

An investigation found that 300 academics, including senior professors and laboratory directors, have been accused of bullying students and colleagues at top UK universities since 2013 raising serious worry that a constant practice of harassment and intimidation is growing successfully in top UK universities.

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Tens of current and former academics spoke of aggressive attitude and behaviour, extreme pressure to deliver results, sabotage of career and human resources (HR) managers appearing more concerned about avoiding negative publicity than protecting staff.

Prof Venki Ramakrishnan, the President of Royal Society, in response to the accusations suggested an overhaul of workplace practices, reiterating that bullying had become inbred in the culture of many UK universities and academic institutions.

Other leading academics in UK universities called for an end to the system of shrouding around the issue in secrecy.

Prof Athene Donald, a distinguished Cambridge College physicist, claimed to know two cases of such ills at 2 different UK universities which he suspected a cover- up is ongoing and lamented of being bothered about UK university authorities desperately trying to take the issues lightly.

The report of the investigation revealed that a total of 294 complaints against academics at 55 institutions were obtained. Additional 30 universities reported 337 complaints against all academic and non-academic staff of the universities about the issue. It was reported that at least 184 staff have been disciplined and 32 dismissed for bullying since 2013 across about 105 universities.14  universities said that they had used non-disclosure agreements to settle bullying cases, with at least 27 affected staff signing confidentiality clauses in exchange for financial payouts.

More than 200 academics have in separate occasions contacted the reporting agency to share their varying individual experiences with regards to the matter.

There have been accounts of wrong attitude and behaviour beyond strong academic debate, professional rivalries and interpersonal clashes.

Dozens of interviewed students and staff in those universities have in one way or another suffered disdain and disrespect, intimidation in different ways including in form of falsification of records against their claims, post-traumatic stress disorder, unusual nightmares, loss of confidence, legal gagging and threatening, among others.

Some others attempted suicide as a result, broke down and/or dropped out or resigned. The academics who were said to be protected by university authorities were bossy, tyrannical and paranoidal in character.

According to the report, University of Portsmouth had the highest number with 51 academics facing complaints. Wellcome Sanger Institute, Cambridge and Institute of Cancer Research, London have emerging alleged cases of bullying. Imperial College London, University College London, and Bristol were among the many universities which did not respond to the request within the given time frame or declined to give figures.