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‘Bullying and harassment’ at Edinburgh

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Dean of Edinburgh vet school David Argyle is at the centre of the bullying claims

By Adele Waters

Several current and former members of staff at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, Edinburgh, are calling for the current dean, David Argyle, to be removed from his post.

They have spoken to Vet Record following the conclusion of an investigation into alleged ‘bullying and harassment’ at the institution (see case studies, pp 296–297).

Alongside his role as dean of the vet school, Argyle is currently junior vice president of the RCVS, meaning he is set to become its president next year. Some staff also claim that he is unfit for that role.

As part of an investigation carried out by an external agency, Intersol Global, 21 staff across a wide range of roles at the University of Edinburgh’s vet school and Roslin Institute were interviewed in February and March this year. The probe identified eight allegations:

  1. An ‘intolerable breach of basic health and safety standards’ in terms of aggressive and abusive language and physical behaviour by the head of school (among others).

  2. ‘Shocking levels of harassment’, leading to many staff taking sick leave due to stress.

  3. Long-term members of staff leaving due to feeling marginalised, harassed and eventually bullied out of their jobs.

  4. Unacceptably high workloads.

  5. Negligible faith in the impartiality of human resources when dealing with staff complaints.

  6. Negligible faith in the impartiality of recruitment and promotion processes.

  7. A culture of extreme fear of being labelled as a troublemaker.

  8. Use of disciplinary procedures, marginalisation and unprofessional conduct against those who question inappropriate behaviour of management.

Staff interviewed by investigators identified three areas for improvement: first in Argyle’s interpersonal skills; second, the university should acknowledge the existence of a poor workplace culture; and third, honesty and transparency from the university’s HR department when dealing with staff issues.

In its report filed to the university in …

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