EXCLUSIVE: Britain’s highest paid university boss who was found guilty of bullying in a secret investigation will stand down from £554k role when her contract expires
- Prof Alice Gast was found to have bullied a colleague at Imperial College London
- Under pressure from students she apologised for behaviour but refused to quit
- Staff have criticised the ‘cover-up’ as the university refuses to provide details
- But Prof Gast told staff she now won’t stay beyond 18 months left on her contract
Professor Alice Gast, who enjoys a £554,000 pay package for helming Imperial College London was found to have bullied a colleague in a secret QC-led investigation exposed by the Mail
Britain’s highest paid university boss will stand down when her contract expires, in a move announced just days after the watchdog opened a probe into her scandal-hit tenure.
Professor Alice Gast, who enjoys a £554,000 pay package for helming Imperial College London was found to have bullied a colleague in a secret QC-led investigation exposed by the Mail.
Under pressure from students, Prof Gast and her lieutenant, Chief Financial Officer Muir Sanderson, apologised for their behaviour but refused to quit.
But staff have continued to criticise the ‘cover-up’, since the university refuses to provide details of the Texan academic’s behaviour or the results of a disciplinary hearing she faced.
Members of lecturers’ union the UCU also passed a motion of no confidence in her.
Observers were puzzled as to why Prof Gast was continuing in her role despite Imperial claiming to have a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach to bullying and harassment.
As rumours bubbled under the surface, college documents were even altered to remove a line that stated bullying counted as ‘gross misconduct’, in what Imperial later claimed was a ‘clerical error’.
However in an emotional message to all staff yesterday, Prof Gast told them she would not be seeking to continue her term of office beyond the 18 months left on her existing contract.
‘I have been fortunate to talk to many of you as I have visited departments in recent weeks. My goal for these visits has been to share with you, in all humility, the lessons I have learned from the events of the past months and to hear your views and hopes for the future’, she wrote,
‘As you prepare to search for my successor, I am focusing on how I can best use the final eighteen months of my term as President of Imperial to continue my work with governments, partners, friends and donors to ensure a positive trajectory and a firm foundation for my successor.’
Staff have continued to criticise the ‘cover-up’, since Imperial College London, pictured, refuses to provide details of the Texan academic’s behaviour or the results of a disciplinary hearing she faced
She also assured colleagues that she welcomed the OfS investigation into ‘management and governance arrangements in relation to the independent investigation’ regarding bullying at Imperial.
Founded in 1907, Imperial College London is currently the home of Professor Neil Ferguson, whose controversial virus modelling was crucial in establishing the first lockdown.
But the university, which has also been granted millions in government funds to work on a vaccine, was rocked by claims of ‘brutal’ mistreatment of staff and a ‘viper’s nest’ environment under Prof Gast.
Experienced lawyer Jane McNeill QC was brought into investigate the whistleblowing claims against the 62-year-old in June, as Imperial led the battle against coronavirus.
One source told the Mail last year: ‘You are either in with her crowd, one of her favourites, or you are not, and if you are not you can be dealt with pretty brutally.’
However, the lawyer’s report, which examined bullying ‘arising since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic’ as well as over the last two years, has not been published on privacy grounds.
Prof Gast did however issue a public apology in December which said in awkward prose: ‘I am sorry that, at times, I made some senior staff feel unappreciated and left out. I am very sorry that I bullied someone.’
The Office for Students has confirmed it is ‘looking into regulatory matters relating to Imperial College. While this work continues, it would be inappropriate to comment further’.
Imperial College said Prof Gast had only ever planned to serve as President for eight years.