Challenging Bullying and Discrimination at the Open University

by Pilgrim Tucker

Challenging Bullying and Discrimination at the Open University

by Pilgrim Tucker
Pilgrim Tucker
Case Owner
I'm a PhD student, studying the history of housing in North Kensington, who's been bullied, harrassed and victimised at the Open University for my disabilities and gender critical views.
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Pilgrim Tucker
Case Owner
I'm a PhD student, studying the history of housing in North Kensington, who's been bullied, harrassed and victimised at the Open University for my disabilities and gender critical views.
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Latest: Jan. 24, 2024

Your help needed once again

Update on Challenging Bullying and Discrimination at the Open University

I have to ask for help once again.

Due to the complexities of my case, the fact that as I am a research student rather than an e…

Read more

My name is Pilgrim Tucker. I am taking legal action against the Open University for discrimination on the basis of my disabilities, bullying associated with my gender critical beliefs, harassment, victimisation, and breach of contract*, which has made it impossible for me to continue my PhD research at the OU. I need your support.

My Story

In 2017, I was invited to study for a PhD at the Open University by OU academic staff Professor A and Dr B following my campaigning work with residents of Grenfell Tower and the wider Lancaster West Estate before and after the 2017 fire.

I began my PhD at the OU in October 2018, researching the history of housing in North Kensington prior to the Grenfell Tower fire.

However, Dr C, the OU historian who had committed to providing input on the research project, was a leading transgender advocate within the university. He blocked me on social media, and then withdrew from working on my project. Although I was promised his expertise would be replaced, no history supervision input was provided.

From the time I started attempting to secure history supervision provision OU staff began to construct a false narrative about my application, claiming I had never been promised history supervision input on my PhD, and that I was being unreasonable in expecting the university to provide it.

Subsequently, other administrative and pastoral aspects of my PhD provision began to go very wrong, and I started to become increasingly stressed and anxious, and requested reasonable adjustments to accommodate my increasing mental health and menopause symptoms.

However rather than acknowledge and rectify any service provision failures, or put in place any adjustments to support my studies, the university attempted to conceal they had promised me history supervision and started to claim, falsely, that I had been rude to staff members, stating that the reason I had received a poor standard of provision at the university was due to illness and purported ‘problematic behavioural traits’ on my part.

The following are some of the claims which have been put to the OU in a pre-action letter, which they have not responded to:

Informing me, wrongly, that I had no entitlement to sick pay or sick leave during periods of ill health, although ESRC funding rules obliged the OU to provide it, and instead advising me to take unpaid leave and claim state benefits while unwell.

Failure to provide counselling support during the period I was undertaking interviews with victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, despite this being specified as a necessary ethical requirement on my research ethics application and OU staff promising me counselling would be provided.

Being incorrectly advised by the head of faculty and other OU staff responsible for my PhD that the only way to change supervision arrangements was by making a formal complaint.

Failing to provide any reasonable adjustments for my disabilities.

Wrongly informing OU staff that I was dyslexic.

Failing to reimburse expenses claims amounting to hundreds of pounds for almost 2 years.

Removing funding for book purchases and falsely claiming I had not had book purchase funding provided from the time I started my PhD.

Failure to apply the university’s covid tracked extension system to my PhD to cover time lost due to covid lockdowns.

Failing to provide accurate or reliable information about thesis submission deadlines, study break allowance, and extensions, and providing constantly changing and inaccurate information regarding this.

Insisting I accept a trans rights activist academic in a pastoral support role.

Seeking to take punitive action against me, based on false and unsubstantiated allegations about my conduct, following the submission of my complaint about the standard of service provided to me by the university.

Although following my complaint the Open University accepted that I had been wrongly advised by senior OU staff members, and that I had experienced shortfalls in administrative provision, they minimised these, denying the majority of their failings. They have made no apology, and offered no remedy or compensation.

The next step is for my barrister to draft particulars of the case in preparation for a legal hearing.

I am currently seeking to raise £11,000, in two stages, this is made up of £5230 in solicitors fees and £5670 – the cost of Barrister Alice De Coverley drafting the particulars of the case.

Thank you for any contribution you can make.


*My breach of contract claim encompasses the university’s failure to act in accordance with its own policies and procedures, and a breach of its duty to perform the service with reasonable care and skill. My contractual claim raises the same issues as a negligence claim and includes bullying associated with my gender critical beliefs.

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Update 3

Pilgrim Tucker

Jan. 24, 2024

Your help needed once again

Update on Challenging Bullying and Discrimination at the Open University

I have to ask for help once again.

Due to the complexities of my case, the fact that as I am a research student rather than an employee, and my case is based on contract rather than employment law, I have had to take a good deal of extra legal advice in recent weeks. This has incurred extra costs, and I am not yet at the stage of drafting the particulars of the case.

For that reason I need to raise another approximately £7000. 

I hate to ask, as its difficult financially for so many at the moment, but it is so important that the Open University is held to account, and made to recognise that it must conduct itself lawfully towards it’s students as well as its employees.

I am so grateful to you for your support so far, obviously I wouldn’t have been able to do this without your help.

Thank you for any contribution you are able to make.

Pilgrim

Update 2

Pilgrim Tucker

Oct. 18, 2023

£13,500 in total to cover costs for this stage

In June when I launched the crowd-funder I was initially seeking to raise £11,000, part for solicitor’s fees and part to cover the cost of Barrister Alice De Coverley drafting the particulars of the case.

Since that time further solicitor’s fees have been incurred, and the total I need to cover the costs for this stage of my case is now £13,500.  I need to raise this by the end of this month.

Thank you very much for your support.

Update 1

Pilgrim Tucker

Oct. 10, 2023

Disciplinary action threatened again

10/10/2023

Dear xxxx,

Thank you for your email explaining that the Open University is again planning to take disciplinary action against me unless I remove information from my crowdfunding page.

Unfortunately however I am not currently in a position to respond, as:

  • I have not yet received the letter of response from the Open University’s solicitor, although it is many months since my claims were communicated to the university by my solicitor, and the deadline for your response has now passed.


  • The Open University has still not replied to my request for a review of my data subject access request (DSAR), made over 2 months ago on 07/08/2023, nor to my email chasing this request for review sent on 10/09/2023. As noted in my request the DSAR data issued by the OU neglected to include emails regarding me exchanged between relevant staff, and also contained a number of redactions that required justification as to which exemptions (as set out in the Data Protection Act 2018) were applied. I note your inclusion of 1 of the email threads cited in my request, but that your removal of redactions has not been applied to the 3rd email in the thread, and despite my request for this information I have as yet still not received the explanation for those redactions, nor for any of the other redactions that have been queried. This is particularly concerning given that earlier this year the ICO upheld my complaint regarding the OUs handling of my data after the OU failed to provide DSAR data until 8 months after my DSAR request was made, 5 months after the maximum legally permitted deadline.

It is disappointing that the OU is again threatening disciplinary action against me while concurrently failing to respond to legal requirements and timeframes, as of course these failures on the OU’s part put me at a significant disadvantage in any proceedings. However once I have received the above information from the Open University I will be in a position to respond.

Kind regards

Pilgrim Tucker

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