Tales of the Riverbank – July’s unedited missive

Dear Beleaguered

Civic Engagement:  The theme for the past month seems to have been the University’s engagement with the local community, at least that’s what my PR team tell me. We are fortunate that we can have such distractions from the attacks I am making on the University. I love all this waffle about Kingston being a town with a strong sense of “place” and history, yet part of the world’s most vibrant city (that’s a good one).

We held our annual bullshitting event in the Dame Elizabeth hyphen-hyphen-Esteemed-Coll LRC at Knuts Park. This is an opportunity to do a bit of misleading PR and make out what a great manager I am. Just like England’s football manager, I’m never going to win anything so I like the pretence of these dos. A highlight was the Mayor cutting the cardboard cake made by the University caterers that looked like a statue of a collapsing university. Good relations with our civic partners brings opportunities for me; we kid the local economy and the Council that I’m an integral part of the future of Kingston.

I was home rather rat-arsed after a wonderful Kingston Connections event; Simon Callow, an actor apparently, delivered the inaugural Garrick Lecture; following which we stuffed ourselves at Dorich House. My excuse was that I had been having dinner with Mozart – Esther, the missus, did her PhD on Mozart, and therefore knew he was dead. Never heard of him myself – so I was not telling porkies, unlike when I said the academic progression fiasco was not about cuts.

Reputation: I recently met the new student’s union sabbatical team – they care a great deal about the University and want to be part of a University they can be proud of. Bad luck, I told them. We cannot acknowledge honestly where we let our students down because otherwise I’d be out of a job.

Students come to a University because of its location, facilities and its reputation. We are fortunate in our location, at least I can’t ruin that. Our facilities need improving, and plans for my white elephant are in place. The new Town House Building will transform our finances from healthy to disastrous, unless I cut a few more staff and schools of course. Our reputation needs attending to. Both external and internal metrics show that there is marked diversity across the University. Fortunately the management doesn’t figure in these so I can blame everyone but myself. Eventually I expect Kingston to become a Nursing and Fashion university. Everything else will be closed down if I get my way.

The Senior Management Team has been discussing what needs to be done to ensure their future. At the moment we struggle to attract sufficient students with A Levels like students at Imperial. We think that the key thing needed to attract students is to bang on about academic reputation. Our conclusions about what delivers academic reputation are trite and confirm the meaningless waffle which makes up the criteria for the Associate Professor role. We need to ensure that more academics become Nobel laureates, as that improves teaching and learning as well as having a direct benefit on reputation – how I’ve no idea, but everyone says it does. We need to ensure that teaching is good and that we do not accept mediocrity (except in management); unfortunately the National Student Survey results, which are the ultimate measure of everything, show that within the University we have poor areas, which negate the great efforts made by the majority of staff who strive to be excellent. These rubbish areas are caused by useless staff what I hold entirely responsible and will shoot sack as soon as I can get away with it. I will be meeting over the summer with the areas that are not doing as well as they should. I’d resign if I was you chum.

What should we be doing to harrass and undermine those areas that I call underperforming? There’s no money. Other institutions that are operating under the same financial regime such as Oxford and Cambridge do better, so there must be some steps that we can take. Let me know if you have ideas – I am particularly interested in ideas that involve bullying and sacking staff.



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