Tales of the Riverbank – March

Dear plebs (you’re not even worth a capital letter)

February is a short month – suits me because I’m a shortarse. However I can do a lot of damage in 28 days.

First, some changes within the SMT. We have given Matthew Hitman, our new DVC (Operation cockups), a chance to get to know the University before creating havoc. He will now take lead responsibility for HR (dumping on staff) and the Process Review Programme (my favourite bit of bullshit). Martyn Grones will continue to act as a sponsor for the Process Review (no other jobs free) with a focus on screwing the academics and doing Matthew’s job. One of Matthew’s tasks will be to put to bed the Process Review Programme. We set this up to bullshit in detail at the way we do things – back office activities like financing my holiday home and shITe as well as student services and academic organisation. The IT and Finance reorganisations (Target Operating Models in out-of-my-arse speak!) are now well advanced and others are being developed. The old fairly stable world of Higher Education in which we taught students has gone and we have already begun to fuck up everything we can. We need to carry on that good work by bringing the Process Review way of screwing things into routine reviews such that Kingston is dedicated to management crap. The University has been forced to change pretty well, people have been open to ideas and adaptable – ie sackable.

I was in New York earlier in February, it was cold as the percy on a penguin (one for our Australian students). I was lulled into a false sense of security when I was told it was 21 degrees; before I realised that meant Fahrenheit – always was crap at Maths. I had the pleasure of hosting a reception for our US alumni, some of whom are now setting up a US Hells Angels “chapter” of the alumni association to help support Kingston. Our meeting coincided with the London mayor, Boris Johnson, bullshitting about the benefits of London as an international magnet for Higher Education and Research while cutting funding.

Boris will be standing as an MP in the election which is looming – vote Tory! Or should that be UKIP – well I like kippers for breakfast. Vice-Chancellors have been talking with all the parties about the importance of universities as contributors to the economic recovery – a good excuse for raising my salary further (£238k last year – whoopee). Universities generate wealth through employing people on low wages, getting international students to pay throught the nose (even more than UK students), and putting out graduates with massive debt. I have had discussions with both Vince Cable and Ed Davey – nothing like a bit of name dropping.

Besides the “big picture” Ed Davey was also interested in some “micro” issues – that means he changes his pledges just to get into power. Reminds me of my job interview. Students contribute through volunteering (they can’t get paid work), they make the streets safer when they’re pissed, they sustain my job and salary. If you have any influence on students please impress on them that we want to create a Kingston ethos; be poor and stressed like the staff, have respect for others – ie don’t follow my example.

The results of the staff experience survey will be published during March (can’t keep it under wraps any longer). One area that concerns me is that whilst staff are positive about Led by Learning (they think it’s total bullshit) you do not think that the SMT is clear enough about the “destination” for the University. Actually Kingston is fixed to the ground, it can’t move, so I don’t know what you’re talking about. I have been concentrating on the University becoming a neoliberal hell rather than bollocks about the “destination”. I think you all are clearly wrong, quite a lot has been said about the aspiration for the University and how awful it will be. I would be very interested in hearing from you, especially those who felt negatively when filling in the survey, I want to know your names.

I do not think that we can know what the University will be like in detail in ten, or even five years’ time, I can’t even count that high. There are some things we can be sure about. We will have sacked a lot of staff, shrinking student numbers and narrowing the variety of backgrounds with opportunities across a range of disciplines, excluding those I close down of course. We will be better at getting our students into useless businesses, we will be better at limiting their outlooks, we will have a much better infrastructure with good IT and improved buildings (and if you believe that …). Staff and students, those that are left, will have more opportunities to work harder for less. We will have more pointless T&L research going on, and will force you all to become income earners to top up my account. Our students will still be known for being entrepreneurial – they won’t be able to get proper jobs. As our reputation improves it will probably be too late to save us. I want us to attract great staff to replace the crap we sack, if I had my way I’d poach them all right.

On the subject of surveys, I have been asked to fill in the NSS for my Open University course (which means I must be getting to the end – how else would I know?). Our students are currently filling in theirs – do encourage them to do so unless you know they’ll write something bad. If you school’s results are shit you are really in it. So far we have had good returns. Let’s hope that is a good sign, especially as the Kingston University Success Share Scheme, where I give myself a bigger share of the cash, is tied to the NSS result!

The University is seeking new members for the Board. Neoliberals and nutters only need apply. We need a Board with a wide range of skills that can help steer the University in what will be challenging times. Know anyone from the Navy or Army? We have two excellent members of staff on the Board – they know when to keep their mouths shut.

Besides a two day trip to New York (very bad for sleep but a nice freebie, £10k so far – whoopee) the month has been dominated by external meetings: HEFCE (funding council), UUK (Vice-Chancellors lobbying group), loads of hot air and free lunches, all of which determine policies that matter for the VCs – stuff the universities. I could fill several pages with the drivel that is discussed in those fora, but will restrain myself. Do let me know if there are things you are interested in that I should be addressing in these newsletters. I’ll ignore them like everything else.





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