Staff at a flagship Birmingham college are subjected to a culture of bullying, fear and intimidation, a union survey claims.
The University and College Union said its study, based on staff responses from Matthew Boulton College, concluded there was "institutionalised bullying" and raised concerns about the leadership style of the principal, Christine Braddock.
But less than a third of those sent questionnaires for the survey responded, and Ms Braddock cast doubt on the validity of the research.
She claimed that it included comments from disgruntled former staff members and said the college had found no evidence to uphold allegations of bullying.
The study was based on a questionnaire sent to 112 members of the NATFHE union – 36 responded – and concludes that "bullying is widespread and institutionalised at the college and that it cuts across gender, ethnicity, age and grade".
"It shows bullying is the management style. . . and there was a 'cronyism' and 'grace and favour' culture in existence at the college," a union spokesman said. The survey comes as college leaders from across the country gather for the Association of Colleges' annual conference at the International Convention Centre tomorrow.
It also follows a week-long visit by Ofsted inspectors at Matthew Boulton which moved into a state-of-the-art new city centre building last September.
Ms Braddock said: "We understand a survey has been carried out. The survey results have been brought into question because there is clear evidence that people who do not work for the college completed it.
"We take the situation very seriously but have found no evidence to sustain the allegations."
The UCU claimed the college had failed to listen to its calls for a further independent review.
Chris May, regional official for the UCU, said: "The survey is damning.
"It is really very regrettable that the members of the corporation at the college chose not to commission an investigation of the results.
"It demonstrates the governance shortfalls within further education but also that employers simply do not see bullying as an issue to be addressed."
The survey was conducted by the UCU following concerns raised by union members working at the college.
The report says the results of the questionnaire suggest a climate in which those who felt bullied were too afraid to speak out for fear of reprisals.
It suggested that anyone criticising management were "sacked or got rid of" and that many staff were seeking other jobs or early retirement. A former employee who did not wish to be named, said: "It was a vile place to work. There are loads of staff who have left because they couldn't stand the regime any more.
"The principal was very controlling and people were constantly worried."
Matthew Boulton moved to its new campus last September and was officially opened in March of this year.
The state-of-the-art facility was one of the biggest single capital investment in further education.
However, almost as soon as moving into the new building in Jennens Road, it was hit by controversy.
Two students were expelled for publishing a newsletter criticising a ban on religious clubs and heavy-handed management.
The move was condemned by the National Union of Students and led to a number of demonstrations outside the college.
Shortly after that, another student claimed she was expelled from Matthew Boulton as she lay in hospital recovering from surgery.