Edinburgh veterinary school head resigns RCVS position

Dr. David Argyle leaves British regulatory body after bullying probe ends

March 23, 2021 (published)
By Ross Kelly

Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons photo
Dr. David Argyle heads the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, where he has worked since 2005.

Dr. David Argyle has stepped down as junior vice president of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons following the closure of an investigation into bullying allegations against him.

The RCVS is the veterinary profession's chief regulator in the United Kingdom. Argyle, who is head of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies at the University of Edinburgh, joined the RCVS leadership council in 2012 and was in line to become its president in July.

The RCVS in November set up a "preliminary investigative committee," or PIC, to probe complaints that Argyle bullied staff at the school in Scotland. The accusations were reported last year in Britain's Sunday Times newspaper and Vet Record, the official journal of the British Veterinary Association.

The RCVS-appointed investigative committee closed the case and decided to take no further action, the RCVS said in a statement dated March 15. 

The RCVS announced in the same statement that Argyle would step down. "Despite this outcome from the PIC discussions, I have now made the challenging decision to stand down from my position at the RCVS," he was quoted as saying. "This is to ensure there is no further distraction to the college's important work and activities and that whoever becomes the next JVP has the full support of council and RCVS members."

Argyle added: "It is also to reduce the toll this situation has taken on my family, colleagues and students, and on me personally."

RCVS spokesperson Luke Bishop told the VIN News Service that the RCVS cannot disclose further information about its investigation or its conclusions — and could do so only if the matter had been referred to a full public disciplinary committee hearing. "This is to ensure fairness for all sides," he said.

Bishop said Argyle's decision to stand down followed the PIC's decision to take no further action. "So his stepping down could not, and would not, have influenced the PIC's decision," he said.

On Monday, the RCVS announced that it has appointed Dr. Melissa Donald as its new junior vice president. Donald has since 2019 chaired the RCVS's standards committee, for which she has led a review of telemedicine rules.

The University of Edinburgh confirmed that its own investigation into the allegations against Argyle concluded there was no evidence of misconduct, a finding that was upheld on appeal.

Members of Britain's University and Colleges Union (UCU) were able to air their concerns about University of Edinburgh management to Intersol Global, a consultancy hired by the university. The university did not divulge the findings of the Intersol Global report, which was based on interviews with 21 staff members.

 "The report was conducted on the basis of complete confidentiality," a university spokesman said.

He added: "The university has taken a number of proactive steps to address concerns raised by UCU. These include training, the creation of focus groups to improve understanding of staff concerns and the commissioning of an external consultant to help all staff work together to create a shared culture."

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