Page last updated at 11:09 GMT, Tuesday, 6 October 2009 12:09 UK

Lecturers get 'scruffy' jeans ban

By Sean Coughlan
BBC News education reporter

History Man, 1981
What would campus radicals in the History Man have made of a dress code?

Lecturers have been told they will be sent home to change if they come to work in jeans or scruffy trousers.

The UCU lecturers' union is protesting against Birmingham Metropolitan College acting like the "fashion police".

The dress code for staff requires tidy hair, business suits and skirts, no visible tattoos, no slogans on T-shirts or "ostentatious ear-rings".

The college defended the rules saying it was "important that our staff present a professional image".

Once stereotyped with an image of fading 1970s fashion, lecturers are now being told they could face disciplinary measures if they fail to comply with the dress code.

'Outrageous styles'

Lecturers are being told to wear a "business suit; smart jacket and co-ordinating trousers or skirt; smart shirt/blouse/top and trousers or skirt; smart dress".

Hair must now be "neat, tidy and well groomed. Outrageous styles and colours are not acceptable".

"Unconventional" jewellery is barred and earrings must "not be excessive, obtrusive or ostentatious" and any tattoos must be covered up.

The ban on jeans also extends to "scruffy/torn trousers; shorts; sweatshirts or t-shirts with slogans".

The lecturers' union says that staff have been "astonished" by the dress code imposed by the college management - with claims that it reflects a "Victorian attitude" to staff.

UCU representative Nick Varney says that it "undermines the professionalism of staff, they can determine for themselves what's suitable when they're teaching".

Staff at the college are "seriously angry" about the dress code, he says. "We're not bank managers."

The college guidelines emphasise the importance of the staff having an appearance that "promotes the values" of a professional and business-like organisation.

"Staff must adhere to a smart and conventional standard of dress and appearance," the rules stipulate.

And a spokeswoman for the college says the code was published "as a result of requests from staff as to what was acceptable 'work wear'".

"We deliver qualifications to over 8,000 16-19 learners and 30,000 adult learners, along with meeting the training needs of a range of businesses - it is therefore important that our staff present a professional image and a dress code is one of the policies we have always asked them to adhere to," says the college spokeswoman.

The setting out of a dress code is the latest example of higher education being put under pressure to be more business-like.

Earlier this year students in Manchester set up a hotline to contact if lecturers were more than 10 minutes late.



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