Imperial School below investigation by OfS over bullying scandal | Imperial School London


One of the UK’s most prestigious universities is formally under investigation by the University Inspectorate as a result of the controversy over staff bullying by two heads of the institution.

Two of Imperial College London’s top executives, its President Alice Gast and CFO Muir Sanderson, have admitted they bullied colleagues when the university caved in to pressure in December to release parts of a report on the scandal.

The investigation is only the second launched by the Office for Students (OfS) at a university, which has the power to examine whether members of university management pass a test of “Fit and Proper” to carry out their duties.

Gast and Sanderson have remained in their posts despite ongoing pressure from staff, students and others. A motion of no confidence in both was passed last month by members of the University and College Union (UCU), which represents academic staff.

“Those of us who think this has taken far too long and that they should have resigned when it was decent are very hopeful about this OfS intervention,” a source close to one of the Guardians was told Whistleblower whose initial allegations of bullying led to a lawyer being brought in to investigate.

“It is clearly very serious for an institution as respected as Imperial to have this hanging over them and we think all aspects should now be looked at.”

A spokesman for the OfS confirmed that an investigation was underway. “We are reviewing regulatory matters related to Imperial College. As this work continues, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” they said.

Members of Imperial’s board of directors, who are expected to meet again as early as Monday, appear to be at odds over how to proceed and are discussing whether to issue a statement regarding Gast and Sanderson.

The university blamed a “scribal error” after the Guardian reported in December that its long-standing bullying policy was changed, days before staff were informed of a completed investigation into bullying allegations against the president and chief financial officer.

Gast, Sanderson and other senior figures should receive bullying and harassment training, according to recommendations from a review conducted last year by Jane McNeill QC, who was consulted on the investigation.

“I’m very sorry I bullied anyone,” Gast, Imperial’s self-proclaimed “CEO,” said in December, while Sanderson said he bullied two co-workers.

McNeill’s report – consulted by Imperial’s chairman of the board, Tesco non-executive chairman John Allan – led to a disciplinary hearing for both Gast and Sanderson. McNeill found that Gast had bullied an older colleague, while Sanderson bullied two colleagues between late February and mid-March.

The OfS, created in 2018 and under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, has previously examined the University of De Montfort. Her then-vice-chancellor, Dominic Shellard, resigned in 2019 before the inquiry found “significant and systemic” flaws in governance.

A spokesman for Imperial College London said: “We fully support OfS in conducting this investigation and have provided all relevant information as requested. We are confident in our process and its results and await the OfS results.”