Ronnie’s Rank and Yank

Readers of this blog will know all about the goings on in Business and Law, where the new Dean Da doo Ron Ron Tuninga, moon-faced and grey-moustached, is trying to impose Kingston’s own version of rank and yank on the Faculty’s academics. This discredited “management” practice originated in America, land of the tent villages; every year staff in a corporation were ranked into three groups: the highest achievers, who were showered with cash, the middlings, who were ignored, and the failures, who were immediately sacked. This odious and foolish practice is now becoming recognised for what it is: a demotivator of employees, a cause of perpetual enervating competition, and a destroyer of creativity.

If there is one quality that marks out a university it must surely be the creativity of its staff. Although Tuninga’s rank and yank doesn’t quite threaten the bottom rung, as defined by his measure, with the sack, it certainly threatens job security and places staff under unnecessary stress. This was pointed out to the Dean at a recent meeting with staff. He pulled back on the teaching metrics part of his scheme; instead all staff must becoming fellows or senior fellows of the HEA (for which applicants have to waste time writing a long spiel all about their teaching for the sake of a certificate). However, there is no change to the research points proposal, and ominously teaching evaluation is to be returned to. Another meeting is scheduled for January.

How did this desire to mark out staff as failures come about? Universities are notionally centres of new and independent thinking. So why does a dean of management want to use someone else’s old ideas which have been proven counterproductive to business, let alone to academia? Someone who is a specialist in management should know this. Yet the neoliberal agenda is permeating universities, the outrages at Warwick and Imperial just the worst examples. How quickly a bad idea gains currency. At Kingston the whole neoliberal show is being directed by Weinberg, but who put him there? The Governors at Kingston should also examine their motivations closely.

Management antics tell us this: that staff are not valued, that staff are expendable. If Kingston insists on a rank and yank policy let it be applied to the management first. For the last year’s performance they look very like C material. Ratty should therefore dismiss the lot from Deans up, followed by himself. Then the Governors, fresh from their reflection, should try again, only try harder.

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