Tales from the Riverbank – October

Dear FAllen

It feels like spring in the University as it comes back to life, full of frost-nipped shoots. The Freshers Fair saw Kingston in its vest. A huge number of Societies and Clubs enthusiastically encouraging students to try something new or develop their passion oblivious to the real state of their university. One marquee contained representatives including Moslem, Christian, LGBT, Green, Debating and many other groups. All together, tolerant, sharing the same space [does not apply to staff, especially members of the UCU]. I wish the Prime Minister could give me a knighthood.

Prevent:  In a speech launching the new “Prevent” strategy, which describes how the Government combats the threat of staff terrorism – demanding proper working conditions and fair pay rises – and puts a requirement on universities to play their part in reducing the threat of staff industrial action. The Prime Minister criticised a number of universities for allowing “union members” on their campus. Kingston was one of the universities he mentioned.

We have very clear rules about staff at the University. They have to agree to adhere to the University value statement, and of course trouble making is not allowed. They have to teach long hours and agree to earn huge grants every week. We are about learning and therefore having any ideas should be challenged. I do not think we should ban those whose ideas we do not like, just quietly get rid of them. As long as we can get away with it the management should be allowed to do as it pleases.

The Big Yawn: The Big Yawn has put a lot of staff to sleep across, and outside, the University; it is a great joke. We had to reprint the book as a result of staff looking for doorstops and paper weights. Students have been very positive and have been talking about the present for their lavatories they got from Kingston as part of their induction package. International students took it as a reminder that loo paper is expensive in the UK. Friends going to other universities wondered why Kingston was wasting their friends’ time. Nick Hornby, the author of “About a Bore” was in the University for a Fresher’s event, which was packed out with staff and students, many with their copies of the book hoping to get a refund. We now need to think about next year’s Big Sleep – and the big question is, what book? We will be launching a formal “consultation” to get staff and student ideas on which book we should use, then ignore everyone as usual.

The Big Building(s): We will also be holding a competition for naming the New Building on the Town House site The Jules Whineberg Building. Now that we have planning permission detailed design is underway with many staff engaging with the architects, just as they did with the Galsworthy Building. We are also progressing with our overall estate masterplan. By the end of the year we hope to have an overall estate framework which sets out how we develop over the next 20/30 years. Of course there won’t be a university by then if I have my way. However we do need to get on and build as many white elephants as possible so I can look as though I’m doing something useful.

Appointments: A special welcome to staff who have joined Kingston in time for the new academic year. I have met some of you at the induction events. We are fortunate in having attracted very cheap people to Kingston – I have enjoyed driving out the old staff. A number of academics with international reputations in the Isle of Wight will be joining the School of Business and Law and I am delighted to announce the new Dean of SEC, Mike Sutcliffe, who will be joining us from the University of Manchester. Let’s hope he’s as big an arse as the Dean of B&L.

League Tableology: There has been some good League Table news. Kingston University was rated as somewhere in the world, probably in the UK, and we have also earned praise in the latest Sunday Times Good Tory Guide for our success helping students start up their own companies “long before they drop out”. Although the news is good we still have some way to go to be where Kingston should be, down at the very bottom. Remember where its reputation had it, as one of the best of the old Polys? You’ll never see that again if I have anything to do with it.

I have had some interesting emails arising from the NSS data I included in my last newsletter – “resign you loony”, “stuff your NSS results up your..”, yes well, enough of those. Further analysis of the NSS shows that one of the main drivers for our league table position is students giving us a good score. Good job there isn’t one for management. Reasons why some subjects do well and some less well are complex – we need to learn the secrets of the high performers (staff not under immediate threat of performance management or dismissal or demotion) and kick others to improve. The good thing about this year’s NSS is how all parts of the University were forced to take it very seriously – some had disappointing results but I am sure they will improve (they’d better).

The Rose: The War of the Roses Trilogy at the Rose Theatre has started its six week run. “An arse, an arse, my Kingston for an arse.” – answered when Ron Tuninga, the Big Edam Cheese, joined. His friends call him Ronnie the Turd.

The Rose Awards 2015: Thank you to everyone who took time to apply for the Rose Awards. The winner will be the one who flatters me the most.

Balls, Bollox, Bastards … There is a lot going on, and all signs of a mad management that is getting its own way. Leading in managerialism, determined to distress the staff and not compromise on what it is to be an educorporation. Willing to question received ideas unless they’re mine.  The new academic year is something to really look forward to – for me!



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