A row over forced retirement has hit Oxford University, one of the most famous universities in the world. Famed for their elite facilities and higher-than-high standards, the Oxford University name commands respect for its quality and age.

However, a recent breaking story has put the esteemed University into the  headlines with a claim that the University has not respected the age of one of its professors. John Pitcher, aged 67, was the leading authority at Oxford University on Shakespeare. However, now due to what the University have described as an act to ‘promote diversity’ the professor has been forced into retirement at the age of 67.

John Pitcher has been at St John’s College for over 36 years and is said to be deeply disappointed by the manner of his exit. The Professor alleges that the University stated they would only allow him to remain if he was able to prove himself to be “indispensable” . After 36 years of good service this left the Professor feeling degraded and unappreciated.

Has this happened before?

It has. In fact it has happened before at the very same university. In an almost identical situation Professor Denis Galligan, a law professor successfully challenged his enforced retirement at the age of 67 (the same as John Pitcher.) Also, Peter Edwards who was John Pitcher’s senior at the age of 69 was also allowed to keep his job after an internal appeal.

John Pitcher has claimed that the university is simply trying to maintain the status quo by enforcing the previous retirement age of 67 that existed in the mid-1980s.  The University have claimed that the retirement was to “safeguard the high standards of the university” as well as “inter-generational fairness” with them looking to “refresh the workforce.”

What is the likely outcome?

Despite the fact that forced retirement at 65 has been banned since 2011, employers still have the right to set a compulsory retirement age if they can make a strong business case that if is in the interests of the business. The university have previously argued that they need to retire older staff in order to make room for junior academics, who would otherwise give up waiting and seek employment elsewhere. It is a complex legal argument and the likely result is hard to predict.

It will  be interesting to see which way the tribunal decides on this case.

By Samuel Tahir

Image used under CC courtesy of summonedbyfells