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Professor Don Gray, the academic who set up a rival architecture school under the noses of his former employer is facing a High Court damages claim for at least £300,000, it has emerged.

The compensation claim against Gray cites allegations of trespass, conspiracy, breach of contract and deliberate attempts to poach staff.

As has been previously reported in the AJ (AJ 07.04.05), Gray left his post as head of Canterbury School of Architecture in order to set up a school at the nearby University of Kent.

Now, according to a High Court writ dated 20 May, the Canterbury School of Architecture's parent, the Kent Institute of Art and Design (KIAD), believes that Gray acted dishonestly and unlawfully during the period of his defection.

This writ was also issued with regard to Gray's alleged misuse of the school's human and material resources, which it says breached the terms of his employment contract.

It is alleged that, during working hours, Gray compiled a list of addresses, phone numbers, salaries, grades and other personal details of Canterbury's staff members, which was then sent to the University of Kent's vice-chancellor, professor David Melville.

In addition, Gray is accused of arranging a series of compulsory meetings of all of his staff at the Canterbury school on 23 and 24 March in order to discuss the possibility of transferring their employment to the new Kent school. It is also alleged that Gray even distributed a draft contract of employment with the University of Kent to KIAD staff for them to consider.

To add to this roll-call of charges, Gray also faces the accusation of allegedly sequestering his former school's course literature to use in helping to set up his new faculty at Kent.

Gray was sacked from his post at KIAD in April. Now, according to the writ, the institute fears it may have to close the Canterbury school, or make huge changes to it, after all but three staff left, or plan to leave, to join Gray.

The institute is also seeking an order compelling Gray to return any of its property that he still has in his possession.

Gray's controversial departure came amid a series of claims and counterclaims over the level of support that the Canterbury school is receiving from KIAD.

Gray's actions have now potentially scuppered a plan by his former employer to merge with the Surrey Institute of Art and Design, it is alleged.

KIAD is now claiming that Gray's actions are responsible for any loss of revenue that the scrapping of the merger plan may have caused, or will cause, and any loss of reputation similarly caused by the failure to merge.

The disgruntled institute is furthermore seeking damages for any future effects that the turbulent affair may have on the well-being of its staff and students, as well as any potential future loss of funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

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