Is the SMT getting nicer?

All right, we know, but it is a legitimate question as Steven Spier and David Mackintosh are busy portraying the SMT in a new caring light.

It’s been a busy year for cleaning out the SMT after the resignation/sacking of the Big Rat, Weinberg, last year. First there was the bumbling Eales-Reynolds, presumably carrying the can for the rubbish NSS scores. More recently Martin McQuillan, fiddler of expenses and arch bully, finally got the push, a step long recommended by this blog (see numerous past posts). Crooked McQuillan got away with money dodges for some years; his financial carryons were bad enough but the hounding of admin staff marked him down as a deeply nasty character. Mike Sutcliffe, unimpressive Dean of SEC, has left on medical grounds and is unlikely to return.

So quite a clear out, and it appears not the last of it. But does this mean the SMT is nicer? Well, the bastard quotient has certainly gone down somewhat, and adaptable Dave Mack is trying to be nice. But hang on a minute. Following the redundancies in Politics, there are more due over in SEC, and being rushed through, this blog hears. The unresolved situation with Grade 10s remains. Some are leaving but what about the rest? Ductile Dave, who supported the whole unpleasant business, is quiet on that.

Perhaps the question is not whether the SMT is truly in “we really do value our staff” mode (excluding forthcoming redundancies), but whether its constituents have suddenly discovered how to be senior managers. Kingston is sliding downhill, student applicants are dropping — we all know that. The SMT will and does blame government policy and changing demographics. These certainly have had an impact. But what is the real job of senior management, apart from the obvious of supporting and motivating the staff? Theirs is also a strategic one. Their experience and expertise should allow them to foresee where external factors are taking the University and adapt in time. Instead it had various delusions about turning Kingston in something different, and deliberately shrinking us when pressures were squeezing us anyhow. The SMT has done no more than react to events and bully and sack the staff. It is still reacting and still sacking.

If the SMT appears nicer it is mainly illusion. Its competence is still in question, along with that of the Governors, ultimately responsible for who manages Kingston. With only two academic board members, we cannot hope for much from these collectors of sinecures and lines on their CVs.

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We say, you pay

Dear Colleagues, severed and unsevered

Plan 2020, launched in February 2017, will ultimately improve our academic performance and the student experience by losing large numbers of staff, which will hardly help raise our academic reputation but we need to save cash. Since we began delivering the plan we have implemented academic improvement programmes that rehash and dumb down the old courses while also working to cut the effectiveness and efficiency of our professional and support services by cutting staff numbers there too. Some of what we have done has been ‘just putting stuff in quotation marks’, failing to address serious shortcomings quickly. For example we have looked at timetabling but done nothing about it, recruitment and conversion (students numbers still falling), and management information systems (disastrous as ever), and created better academic support to deliver student success (does anyone know what that actually is?)

I am pleased that we look likely to meet our (reduced) recruitment figures this year and are still bouncing around the bottom of the Sunday Times Good University Guide, evidence that we may just have arrested our decline (well someone should be arrested – my ex-friend Martin for instance – oops, must keep shtum over that one). However, to move forward together and reclaim our position as one of the country’s fastest plunging universities we need to work for my survival. To facilitate this we must waffle about our mission and then waffle more about the actions we need to take to deliver it, and for this we need your help. Starting in late October, the Senior Management Team with other senior staff will be leading a number of workshops with staff and students to get your ideas on what actions these might be; then as before we will do exactly as we please and to hell with you.

If you’re still here (don’t count your blessings too quickly) please do take this opportunity to make your voice heard in helping design our future.

The Chief Architect

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Mass resignation of the SMT?

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Corruption in the SMT

Many will have been relieved at the departure this summer of Queasy McQuillan, but also a little surprised at the abruptness. The brief note on the staff website disappeared soon after it announced McQuillan’s leaving for “personal reasons”, a phrase often used euphemistically, especially in political spheres. One comment below this blog’s post on the matter alleges financial irregularities. This surprised even Dissenter: the SMT is well known for its contempt for the staff and incompetent management but fingers in the till …? However, investigations by this blog suggest the allegation stands up. McQuillan was up to financial no good, embezzling research funds, according to commenter ‘Jack Dawson’. No wonder he was so keen on raising research income as he cracked his whip over the wretched staff.

Damn good riddance we all think. From the management’s point of view such behaviour by a senior manager looks very bad for Kingston University, which is why, no doubt, it has been hushed up. To protect KU’s reputation (such as it is) a dishonest manager has got away with it.

So one more bad egg goes, leaving how many? Well, Tuninga, scourge of Business, is still here. One just hopes the rest of the SMT are learning from the  mistakes of recent years and starting to behave more like senior managers. With imminent redundancies during the next crumbling step in Plan2020, and the introduction of some really bad software (more of which later), that looks unlikely at present.

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Dark September

This is the month we start teaching again, hamstrung by various measures, not least the NSS with which the students look set to undermine their own education. Our paltry pay award, all of 1.7%, means yet another real pay cut this year, depressingly accepted by UCU members. Who would vote for a pay cut? Us. Certainly not the managers whose pay award will probably turn out to be somewhat larger as in past years.

Then we have the 3rd phase of Plan 2020 to endure. How many staff are in for the chop this time? So all the staff can be forgiven for facing this academic year with great misgivings. Meanwhile Stevon, our Chief Architect, will twitter on about improvements all the while holding an axe over our heads. No change in sight.

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The Long Long Read

This is a dark tale about how a not so young academic left holding the baby, helpless and abandoned by its previous VC. Follow the twists and turns as Stevon attempts to undo the damage wrought by this shadowy figure, referred to only as the Rat. Will they all survive? Will NSS scores continue to go down? Will the staff survey ever improve? Read this horror story and see if there’s an end in sight.

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