Tayside and Central Scotland

Abertay University principal denies 'retiring'

Prof Bernard King
Image caption Prof Bernard King was suspended by the university earlier this year

The principal of Abertay University, Professor Bernard King, has denied that he has retired from the post.

His departure was announced to staff in an e-mail from the university - apparently circulated in error ahead of an official briefing.

The 65-year-old was suspended earlier this year. He alleges he was facing discrimination on grounds of age.

Abertay University said its position was that Prof King's retirement commenced on 1 July.

But Professor King said in a statement the e-mail referring to his retirement was "not accepted".

He has lodged papers with an employment tribunal.

A statement issued on behalf of the professor said he wanted to "clarify" his position following reports on Saturday that he had retired with "immediate effect".

'Unfair and unlawful'

It read: "He has indeed received correspondence from the University Court intimating that he is now retired. However, this is not accepted by Professor King.

"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.

"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."

The statement also said Prof King's solicitors had advised him that the university's current actions were "both unfair and unlawful".

It added: "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."

Resignations

After news of the professor's departure circulated via e-mail, the university's acting principal, Prof Nicholas Terry, wrote to all staff saying it was "regrettable" the message had been sent without his knowledge.

But he admitted that the contents of the e-mail were "accurate".

A spokesman for Abertay University said: "Our position remains that Professor King's retirement took effect on Friday July 1 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."

The dispute between Abertay University and its principal has proved to be highly contentious.

A number of public figures in Tayside have resigned from the university court. One of them, businessman Derek Douglas, called for an independent inquiry into the suspension of Prof King.

The employment tribunal action may still go ahead.

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