Once again the University has missed an opportunity. This blog suggested that a suitable replacement at EDI for Nona McDuffer OBM (Order of the Bad Manager) would be her capable deputy Cheryl Jordan, but suspected she would not be chosen. Perhaps Cheryl didn’t want the job — what fair-minded person wants to be a manager at KU? Or did she just not have the bullshit-speak to impress the VC?
Instead an academic from Geography, Annie Hughes, has got the job. Now this is a somewhat curious choice. From her point of view, escape from the threatened School of Geography is a good idea, and no doubt the money is better. But what are her qualifications to ensure Kingston adheres to its touted commitment to equality? Well, she has done some pedagogic work on the underachievement of BME students. And that’s about it. In the AP transition nightmare, which she was affected by, Annie kept her head very low. No sign of commitment to equable treatment of staff there. Not exactly an encouraging history. Still, indifference to staff welfare is certainly not an obstacle to a management post at Kingston. Let’s just hope she does a better job than her predecessor.
The invidious AP transition practice introduced by the Great Destroyer, Julius Weinberg, has come to an end. In case anybody is unaware, Weinberg decided to abolish the titles of Principal Lecturer and Reader and replace them with the new designation of Associate Professor, a professor that isn’t a professor (not unlike some ‘full’ professors at Kingston). The grade 10 staff occupying these posts were forced to go through a long-winded, demoralising charade of reapplying for their grades, under the threat of eventual demotion and a large salary cut.
This whole nasty business is now over after some five years, yet it is not clear who is facing demotion, or whether the University will enact its threat. Out of 264 subject to the procedure, 156 are now APs. Many good staff have resigned or retired. This blog understands that 10 applied for transition in the final round but we don’t know how many got through, although the number is said to be high. So plainly there are still some grade 10s in limbo.
It must be obvious to all but the senior mismanagement how destructive this has all been. Kingston has lost staff, undermined the morale of those still here, and weakened its reputation. But the very worst result of all is the damage done to the collegiality of the University. Apart from the loss of faith in the management to provide the leadership and support needed, there has been an attendant loss of faith in one’s colleagues. It is noteworthy how few grade 10s, once they made it to AP, took any interest in the plight of their fellow lecturers. Standing together was the one source of strength we had. Sadly this never really happened. Too many kept their heads low and offered no support to anyone else. This fragmentation amongst the teaching staff may yet prove to be the undoing of Kingston. It has certainly allowed the SMT to trample all over us.
No tears will be shed for the departure of Martin McQuillan, probably the worst of the SMT following the ousting of Clueless Julius Weinberg last year. Queasy has stated that he is leaving for personal reasons. Perhaps this is true. Or has the BoG recognised his incompetence, as they did with Eales-Reynolds? Any readers know?
The latest means of sowing destructive competition within universities has begun, and predictably Kingston is already at the bottom. Also predictable is the University’s spin on its bronze TEF rating, the lowest possible (those institutions on a “provisional” rating have not provided enough data). The new teaching guru, Clarissa Wilks, puffs on about innovation and quality experience to improve KU’s rating in future, but this is without doubt a disappointing result.
The reason the lowest rating was predictable is the management’s treatment of the staff over the last four years. There has been much emphasis on clearing out the “underperforming” lecturers. The first purge happened soon after Ratty took control, which lost the University many good staff — often so good at their subject they ran outside consultancies — and now another round is underway. Result: fewer staff to teach the students, many worried about their futures; too many of us bogged down in the need to “innovate”, a word as debased as “excellence”, largely a fruitless exercise in wheel reinvention. As for underperforming staff, it’s unlikely they ever existed. If they did they are still here — in the senior jobs.
Good teaching needs well motivated teaching and support staff, as this blog has emphasised often. The management is not delivering that, on the contrary. Unless it can halt the decline in staff job satisfaction — refer to the last staff survey — Kingston cannot expect to improve over bronze. Unhappy staff equals unhappy students. A pity the SMT cannot grasp this.
We’ve all heard the stories about the person who was promoted out of harm’s way to a management position, an especially commonplace tale in FE colleges: many an incompetent teacher has ended up in a management job to which their chief skill of bluster is well suited. Many therefore will not be so surprised to see that Nona McDuffer, flimflamming leader at EDI, has become Student Achievement Director. A classic case of moving someone from an important job to — well, a non-job, probably at a higher salary to boot.
But our Nona is not just rising to the incompetent heights of top management at Kingston. She now has a gong, thus proving the disreputability of the British honours system, if it needed proving any further. (How long till the fled Rat gets a knighthood?) Why has she been called to the Palace? Have the powers that rule our land had their attention drawn to some outstanding achievement here? Well, in a manner of speaking (excluding the outstanding bit). People are nominated for these awards; Her Maj doesn’t go out scouting for deserving citizens. Clearly Kingston University, ever anxious to raise its profile — Guardian prizes which you have to pay to enter, a bit like a raffle — put up a few names for the Birthday Honours, and Nona’s came up. No doubt she had to keep in with the bosses for this to happen. Perhaps the OBN would have been a better fit than the OBE.
There might be a silver lining to the medal box here. Could it be that McDuffer’s far more able deputy, Cheryl Jordan, will take over as head at EDI? One sticking point. Ability is often an overqualification at Kingston.
We will all be surprised (and most of us relieved) at the result of the general election. Although the Tories are still in power, just about, the horrifying prospect of the Nasty Party having a large majority has been averted. The empty “strong and stable” slogan intoned by the Maybot throughout the campaign now seems even more ludicrous than before last Thursday. What will happen over the next few months is not entirely clear, but a second election must be on the cards, and perhaps Corbyn, who has revealed hitherto hidden leadership qualities, can win.
Some of us may see some parallels between the antics of the Conservatives and those of our leadership, the Senior Mismanagement Team. The SMT has certainly adopted the neoliberalism, without reservation, that has characterised the Tories for some 40 years. The damage inflicted by Weinberg is not dissimilar to that of Theresa May’s on her ability to govern. After shooting the whole country in the foot, following her predecessor’s lead, she has now done the same to herself. Likewise, our ex-VC took a relatively healthy Kingston University and methodically cut the legs away.
Mrs May’s remaining time in office looks likely to be short. Our Chief Architect, Spier, will no doubt outlast her incumbency. But there are similarities between the two. Just as May has talked much about delivering a one-nation Britain, without actually doing anything towards that, Spier has promised more respect for the staff but done nothing in support. He has also proved equally keen on hollow slogans. But isn’t that neoliberal leaders all the way? Keep telling everyone how good you are, how well things are going, deny everything when it goes wrong, and ignore any awkward questions. Wobbly as she goes, Captain.