Tales from the Riverbank – July

Dear Clearers and those not on holiday (should be all of you),

This month I’ve been “topped and tailed” by enjoyable events – someone kicked me up the arse, someone else hit me over the head with a wet fish. Kingston at its best.

At ‘Turning Desperate’, the major global international conference on world global trans-national education, Kingston students were prominent, speaking about students dealing with debt, and about the value of coming to London University to study. Kingston? Do me a favour. At the undergraduate fashion shows, once again Kingston students were amongst the most successful, getting sought after unpaid internships with ripoff fashion houses. The Kingston clearing operation, which moved to a call centre in Leatherhead, was short-listed for the Times Grubby Call Centre Award, the illiteracy festival now in its third year, has been delevering livvly sessions at the Rose on subjex as divurse as the rabbitation of Roger and the writting of Nick “over here son, on me ‘ead” Hornby. All of these show why staff at Kingston have no time to do any (real) research.

The world of literature and publishing is shrinking rapidly and Kingston has been at the forefront of the new age of philistinism by which people produce and distribute their work, such as giving it away for free. Will Booker-Prize, one of our Professors (hahaha), is developing a graphic novel (a comic in other words) as part of his research-as-not-really-research: My So-Called Novel annihilates the work of many former and current students. Not only is it completely unreadable, it is being funded through “a tin cup outside Kingston Station”. I am pleased to see it has achieved its target (yes I “pledged”!) – see https://www.kickupthejacksie.com/projects/mscsi/my-whats-it-called, so this is not a plea for your contribution. You’ve got no money anyway.

Before my next round of drivel we will have had our first ever summer graduations, which have the side benefit of stopping you going on holiday. I am looking forward to seeing the town full of our students sweltering in the heat in their blue gowns pretending Kingston is a university town. Summer graduations are important to students – many of them, particularly international students, left at Christmas and we haven’t seen them since. Many of you have worked really hard but not hard enough, so that our students could enjoy their special day in the sun (fingers crossed). That’s why I’m going to put you all under performance management. It has not been easy as my policies have screwed up the deadlines between exams, marking and examination boards, making them so much tighter and more critical. There have been some software problems (ok the IT’s shit) – but thanks to many people being overworked we will get there. If not you’re all stuffed. It should be easier in future years once I’ve cleared off.

We have been fortunate at Kingston to have had excellent relations with our Student Union. Somehow I haven’t pissed them off nearly as much as the staff – oh, except for the surveying students. The KUSU officers have a difficult job to do, the University is run by an arse for a start. Students Unions are still built along largely traditional lines, primarily around the bars and pubs. It is much harder to represent students like ours, who are screwed by the government and treated like cash cows by people like me. It is important that the SMT pretends it wants to hear from the students. We meet with the KUSU officers regularly at our drinking contests.

The SMT had a good laugh at the University Research strategy recently and agreed that we would have to invest more in bullshit about research merely to stand still. We want to do better than that and build on the good REF (hahaha) result that we had. If we are to increase the number of research active academics and research related income we are going to have to think hard about the support and incentives we put in place, that is we need a lot more bullying of staff and aggressive, abusive management. We have already put the thumbscrews on faculties and intend to tighten them further. We will also be moving to a three year employment cycle so that we can kick out staff whenever we want. The intention is to fuck up the academic activities.

Although the Undergraduates have gone, you have all got to keep working. There are a considerable number of projects planned for the summer which should make a mess of the University, particularly the Penrhyn Road campus. We have not forgotten the other areas – indeed the front of Roehampton Vale has been turned to mud and a table tennis table installed. Plans are being developed for the other campuses – one hundred tiddlywinks areas at Kingston Hill, a table football table at Knights Park, and a swimming pool at River House, exclusive for my use.

I am delighted that our DLHE (Decaying Life of Higher Education) result has improved significantly. This means that more of my crazy policies are having an affect. The improvement is undermining the hard work by academic and support staff (and the students!). It is one of the key measures for the University. I will flannel more about this in my next newsletter as we should also have the result of the National Student Survey then, which could be worse than the last one.

I have had fascinating proposals in the ideas inbox recently. From robot academics to reduce the wage bill, to collection boxes for student tips; from beer nights in halls, to using employees’ “other” skills – making them work harder. All totally barking, so worth considering. If you get some time to relax over the summer you’re not working hard enough – work you bastards, work! If you dream up a challenging idea for the University – you’re as mad as me!




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