SOUTHAMPTON University has ordered an urgent investigation after it was ordered to pay £2.5 million to one of its professors – because it failed to turn up to a tribunal.

Economist Richard Werner, from Winchester, was awarded the payout last week after claiming he was discriminated against for being German and Christian during his 14 years career at the university.

It is one of the largest awards ever made by a British tribunal and was so high because the university failed to defend itself.

Now the university has confirmed it has asked auditors to get to the bottom of why they did not contest Professor Werner’s case and have started legal proceedings to overturn the judgement.

Professor Werner claimed he was ‘victimised’ in a ‘harassment and bullying’ campaign.

He told the tribunal he was the victim of a ‘string of incidents’ between 2010 and 2018 and was not given permission to take a sabbatical to work on a book and ‘flourish’ as a researcher – despite his colleagues being granted permission.

The 52-year-old claimed the university prevented him from taking annual leave and denied promotion.

Professor Werner told the 90-minute hearing: “I was discriminated against for my religion, belief and race as a German.”

He said colleagues began harassing him after he suggested improvements to ‘broken’ procedures. He said: “There was a string of incidents including victimisation and harassment. It was related to my beliefs and there was evidence I was being discriminated against because of my nationality and Christianity.

“I would have been promoted if it was not for discrimination matters.”

Professor Werner said he was denied the chance to take a sabbatical for research purposes.

Professor Werner resigned from the university, where he was professor of international banking at the university’s Southampton Business School, in July last year.

He said the university conducted a number of investigations into him and he lost all access to 14 years of emails after he left. He also claimed he should be given the title of Emeritus Professor.

Judge Mark Emerton was left ‘astonished’ the university failed to respond to or defend any of the claims and did not attend the hearing which was held in Southampton little more than a mile from the campus.

Addressing the professor, he said: “Consider yourself lucky that the university failed to be here today as if they did attend you would have got less.

“For a university that presumably has a limited budget I find it astonishing,”

A spokesman for the university yesterday said: “The University of Southampton has ordered an urgent investigation by its independent auditors into why it was not able to present its evidence at the tribunal. The university categorically rejects the claims made by Mr Werner, and the university has today commenced legal proceedings to get the judgement overturned.”