Down the pan

Oh dear what can the matter be
 King-ston has gone down the lavatory
 Staff survey, what a calamity!
 Ratty is tearing his hair.

The long wait for the results of the staff survey is finally over. As widely predicted, they are bad. Ratty is unable to put much of a gloss on them, despite leaving out much of the critical detail. None the less, Kingston’s overwhelming problem is clear: senior management is failing badly. Overall only 24% of staff are “engaged”, i.e. those who averaged above 4.5 on the 1 to 6 scale (‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’) in answer to the questions about the performance of the corporate side of the University — what Ratty gets up to in effect. This is 5 points worse than the survey from the previous year. These figures improve slightly at the department level but not by that much. According to Aon, the company that conducted the survey, the 24% engagement figure compares to 61% for higher education institutions globally. Yes, Kingston is bottom quartile. If Ratty can take heart at all, engagement in other industries is falling even faster, though from a much higher level. This of course says much about the neoliberal and managerialist times we live in.

Looking in more detail across Kingston, the faculties are all in decline, except for Business & Law which at 28% improved by one point over the past year. (This was before the Dean’s draconian publications points system was proposed.) The most pissed off faculty is SEC at 14%, a drop of 7 points from last year. More surprising, Executive and Senior, although topping the staff table, has only 32% engaged, falling 9 points. Looks like Ratty is getting to Deans and Heads too. Least surprising is the high rating for the VC’s Office, home of the SMT and other well paid managers (60% and climbing, the only bunch above the national average.) This figure bombs in the majority of other departments, all the way down to a lowly 5% in Enterprise. HR at 17% is interesting; doing the dirty work for Ratty can’t be much fun.

So what are the reasons for this poor result? That has been largely supressed. The few critical staff comments published are mostly very bland — nothing about the bullying culture, the fear for livelihoods, the pressure, the stress. The only upbeat message from the survey is about the students; one comments notes the diverse backgrounds, a feature of Kingston that our VC’s policies are likely to reverse.

What does the University intend to do? Well, not a lot. The flannel under “You said … we’ve done [you over]” is nothing but empty management-speak and meaningless activities for the SMT. The new University Secretary, Martin Hitman , offers a few blandishments of his own: “I am a keen advocate of staff engagement and will be taking responsibility within the senior team for ensuring we find ways to resolve the concerns raised by staff”. Spoken like a senior manager. No change from that quarter then.

This blog wants to see Kingston improve rather than continue on its decline that began with the appointment of this VC. So here are some suggestions to start this process:

Stop bullying the staff
Withdraw the demotion threat hanging over grade 10 academics
Cut the management cotton wool like Led by Learning
Remove the block on progress from lecturer to senior lecturer
Withdraw the insidious creep to aggressive performance management, e.g. Ronnie Ranker’s scheme for B&L
Support a long term improvement in research and teaching with encouragement in place of a climate of fear
(Please add your suggestions as a comment below.)

One other thing. Ratty has been forthright in his warnings to schools that finish in the bottom quartile of the National Student Survey. Time he applied that to himself and his hapless “senior management” team’s unacceptable level of performance. Board of Governors take note.

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1 Response to Down the pan

  1. A.Friend says:

    These results cannot be a surprise for anyone not wearing blinkers or who is a member of the SMT. Everyone on the “shop floor” could see this coming after all that’s been going on in recent years. I’d like to see a motion for a vote of no confidence in the SMT and Julius and Lesley-Jane in particular go before the Board of Governors as this would accurately refelect the feelings of the huge majority of the workforce ansd challenge Julius’ dictatorial, ill-conceived and confrontationial leadership.

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