Tales of the Riverbank – August’s unedited newsletter

The end of another academic year, the end of employment for some, the planning well in place to get rid of more. Those who think that we close down for months over the summer have no idea that the University is a year round endeavour for all staff (except me —I’m off to Barbados). There is a cycle to things, we try to get building and maintenance work done out of the Undergraduate term time when academic staff do their research. Some say to me they need peace and quiet to work properly, I say don’t be a bunch of wimps.

Highlights and Challenges:  The year has seen some real highlights for Kingston. We are top in lots of meaningless awards which have nothing to do with teaching or research. 6 members of staff have become Principal Fellows of the Higher Education Academy, none does any teaching of course. We are making major changes which will start to reposition the University for the future, probably on its back. The Academic Regression, Demoralisation and Demotion Framework is in place and will support the destruction of academic careers. The new Resource Allocation Method, along with the process reviews should ensure that in a time of dwindling resources we pay staff less and less.

Along with all this good news there are still some challenges (i.e. people to get). I will be meeting with the teams that run courses that do poorly in their disciplinary league tables to see what we can do to put the frighteners on them. All students at Kingston should be on a course in the top half of the league tables. One day I expect all universities to be in the top half. Our submission to the REF was good, but too many academics were not research active and it is sometimes difficult to discern the outputs of self-managed time. That’s because they are skiving bastards! There is no reason why we should not be ambitious – we can sack a lot of staff here. I think we can create something special here – a University that is serious about widening participation while shrinking student numbers, and ambitious about quality while bullying the staff into resignation.

Senior Team Changes:  As you may have heard there are changes in the Senior Management Team.  I am always delighted when Kingston enables people to move on to the next phase of their lives, like the School of Surveying staff and students – they’ve had a good enabling. Neil Latham is moving to an interesting new role at Bath Tub University (the old Navy lark), Fiona Ross is heading up research at the Leadership Foundation (never heard of it), Matthew Humphreys is becoming Dean of Business and Law at a place even more crap than here, Edith Sim and Penny Sparke are retiring. See how many I got rid of! However, Edith, Penny and Fiona are keeping roles at the University. Edith will be leading a pilot of a national programme to investigate new ways of harrassing staff and treating them like school children. Penny (whose academic background is as a Design Historian – wtf is that?) will be leading  a project to revise the University History to Year Zero, when I took over. Martin Potter I’ve forgotten already.

I am particularly pleased by how we have helped screw people over. We have real depth and resilience in our staff so I need to grind them down some more. Val Collington and Lucy Jones will be acting as Deans and I have complete confidence in them, they will step stressfully into the roles. As will Simon Harrison and Rajiv Sharma-Drake (another good bully), who will be covering for parts of Neil Latham’s role, until a permanent mug is appointed. One of the things that is important for me is to know that we have strength in depth – apart from all the crap schools I’m having a word with; and the experience of the last few years has shown that other universities want to snap off the Kingston product! We have also done well in attracting great people to Kingston – Lesley-Jane Eales-Reynolds as PVC (now DVC) Education for example, responsible for all that teaching & learning flannel. So I have no doubt that we will make good appointments in the future. Neil, Martin, Fiona, Edith, Penny, Jean-Noel and Matthew are irreplaceable friends – glad to see the back of them.

Getting Out of the Office: I am writing this whilst at a meeting (everyone else is asleep) of the heads of universities in the Santander network, another freebie. Santander (the Bank) sponsor a network supporting collaboration between universities (largely in Spanish speaking countries and the UK)  on projects to make bankers even more money – sounds good to me. A gathering of 1,000 or so university Presidents, Rectors and Vice-Chancellors should be an expensive event (!) – I have a series of meetings which I hope will lead to some useless collaborations for Kingston, full of business bullshit and hot air. But I can use it to make me look good and that’s what’s important.

I am currently doing “space walks”, walking around the University – every corridor, office and laboratory – yes I’m watching you. You understand somewhere better through the back of your arse, and I have some interesting conversations as I walk around.  I hope it gives me more ammunition. It adds to my experience of threatening people around the University. I need some new names/victims to challenge what we are doing – don’t stay silent – do send your thoughts on how the University should develop to room101@kingston.ac.uk, you might get invited to a Dissenters Dinner. You might be on the menu. Do also invite me to shadow you – I like looming darkly over people.


those of you having a holiday, get back to work you lazy sods

those of you working through the summer – I may well thump you – at least you can still walk. Thank you for keeping the place going while I’m in Barbados – I hope you get a break somewhere painful later in the year. You can count on it from me.




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