Tales from the Riverbank – August

Dear all those in dire need of a long holiday (but won’t get it),

The National Student Survey results for 2014/15 are almost with us. We do pretty bad in these – well, I do my best.

We received access to the University’s own data on 31 July. However this is under a strict “embargo” and we are not allowed to discuss it, thank God! On 7 August we get to see the data across institutions, the ones who do a lot better than us. Finally on the 12 August the full data set is made public. We will then be able to let you know how we have done, unless it’s really bad, then we’ll smother it a while like we did with the staff survey.

One of the things we need to do to get/keep students and staff engaged is to think about the University’s “control environment” (I don’t know wtf that is either). Somewhere, something is going wrong, although I will never admit it’s me; because in a large complex organisation run by me it is impossible to get anything right. What happens when something goes wrong? We blame the staff of course. Something else goes wrong, and hence blame the staff some more. Perhaps this makes someone’s work more difficult or frustrating. I couldn’t give a shit! Over time, and often for the best of reasons, we create a place with miserable staff and students, giving us lousy NSS results.

If Kingston is to be successful in a future which will be more neoliberal and where we will have to bully and bullshit more and more. Getting to a different sort of organisation is quite easy when you abuse your position. An environment with fewer controls is one where people are trusted to do their best, and if mistakes happen they are not punished, but we are not going to be like that. It is also an environment which people are proud of and where they do their best – definitely not like that. In management speak we need to take a more “fuck-everybody approach”.

At a national level there are going to be major changes to the governance of universities. The QAA (Quality Assurance Agency) is consulting on a disastrous system and the loons in Government plan to bring in a Teaching Excellence Framework. The changes we are planning should put us in good standing in advance of these changes, for example all remaining staff will bullshit their way through all this, even though they won’t teach any better.

Over the next few weeks – if you are dead on your feet, having a Kingstoncation, working on summer schools, writing grants, supporting students who were too lazy to work first time, doing sod all!, at Clearing (for many of you will not be having an August or any break) – think about the controls you think are pointless, irritating, duplicated or mystifying, and let me know about them. If you say the SMT you’re sacked.

The next part of this newsletter has taken on a bullshit theme! What’s new!

This week we are launching The Complete Balls Awards to recognise the outstanding achievements of our staff over the past academic year. Are you part of a team or have you individually made a difference at Kingston? Or have you just been wasting your time on teaching and good research? This is your chance to tell us about it. Please visit Another Load of Bollocks pages to find out more.

Summer Graduations at the Rose Theatre have gone well. We’ve made a fortune from overcharging the students for gown hire and parents for tickets. One of our innovations this year has been to have a “keynote” speaker; that’s some boring arse who pads out the ceremony with some dreary job waffle. Listening to some of our keynotes has been truly numbing. People who had been disadvantaged and thought that university was not for them – unfortunately they could only come to Kingston. They had then gone on to have spectacularly dull careers. Kingston takes students from the widest range of backgrounds and gives them as bad an education as I can manage. We will continue to do the same. My one regret at graduation is that I do not have a chance to have a longer talk with the students, beyond the “that’s a weird hairstyle”, “congratulations now piss off and leave us a cheque”. Many people worked hard to make summer graduations a success: academics who got exam marks in early despite my screwing up the system, boards which scraped them through, those few remaing support staff. Every parent and graduate (both of them) I spoke to thought it was a memorable occasion, though I’ve forgotten it already.

I would like to congratulate SEC, who have been successful in winning a number of major awards,which I take the credit for of course. What about you pansies in the arts? Get earning you artyfarty lot. SEC also had the good news of a major gift which will be used to support students. We will have to use philanthropy as government support all goes to the high earners. I know, I’m one of them.

FADA students did very well in the graduate awards season. I particularly noted a number of awards in lavatory design; beautifully crafted stools and interesting bog rolls. The quality of teaching and the workshop opportunities at Kingston means we do well, so I’ll be doing something about that. Next time you visit a trendy bar you may well be sitting on the product of a Kingston University education, or being served by one!! I’ll be sitting on all of you!




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