The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Prof Parker: Relieved to escape MMU’s ‘bullying and harassment’

Professor Ian Parker speaks to The Mancunion following his resignation from MMU

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Professor Ian Parker is “very, very relieved” to escape from an “environment of bullying and harassment” at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Speaking to The Mancunion, the world-renowned psychologist explained: “In the past year more staff have left in a short period of time than ever before. People are escaping whenever they can.”

Prof Parker was suspended by MMU in October on charges of “gross professional misconduct”, sparking a campaign calling from his reinstatement. An online petition received almost 4,000 signatures from around the world, including from American philosopher Noam Chomsky.

Following a disciplinary hearing he was allowed to return to work in December, but he resigned at the end of January, stating: “My professional work as an academic has been undermined to the point where there is now nothing left to return to in the psychology department.”

He revealed that in MMU in the last year there have been 20 cases of staff accused of “gross professional misconduct”, which in his case referred to circulating emails questioning workload and appointment procedures.

He said: “When you get the first letter you are told that you mustn’t discuss it with anybody and then you’re isolated.

“I’m lucky that I had an international network of support and students who immediately spoke out. There are people who have been forced out and can’t find another job.”

Prof Parker was at MMU for 27 years and recalled that it was only when a new Head of Department was appointed last year that things became bad.

He said: “It’s not so much that the head of department is a bad person, it’s more that they’re very obedient to whatever MMU want them to do. Some other departments have been doing similar things.

“We have a situation where some heads of department are willing to just do whatever the management tells them to do, and that’s when things really get nasty.

“The MMU Psychology department was very distinctive. Now the department has no professors left except the Head of Department, it’s really awful.”

He noted that universities are increasingly pressuring staff to do well in the National Student Survey (NSS) in which students feedback on their academic experience.

He said: “Universities have a mistaken, bureaucratic way of trying to raise NSS scores. The tragedy is that what they’re doing doesn’t actually help the students.”

One of Prof Parker’s PhD students, Owen Dempsey, last week claimed that he had not been offered an alternative supervisor or received any communication from MMU since the suspension in October.

He said that he and other students would be demanding their fees back and stated: “As far as the university is concerned I just don’t exist.”

A group of students presented the campaign’s petition to MMU’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Brooks, who they allege told them that there were aspects of the suspension which would never be revealed.

Prof Parker, who in his resignation statement made public all of the offending emails and correspondence from MMU, said: “I think it’s an appalling thing to say. It keeps suspicions going.

“It’s done damage to my reputation, people are still a little bit suspicious and I can’t blame them.”

He chose to resign for the sake of his health after being ordered to go to a meeting without a union representative.

He explained: “My partner said ‘you need to go to the doctor’. I was reluctant but I did go and it gave me some space away to think things through.”

With a Visiting Professorship at London’s Birkbeck College and several book contracts, Prof Parker said that he has “lots of things to do to keep busy”.

MMU have not been commenting on this issue, previously stating: “It’s private and confidential as far as we are concerned.”

  • Allan

    Sad to hear about lan’s resignation. I was lucky enough to have been a student very briefly in 1995, and lan’s approach is still an inspiration.
    Allan Jones