They’re killing us

Nothing surely is so bad for the memory as long-enduring worry, agitation, fear. – Henry Ryecroft

Neither the warning of Ted Hughes’s fox-man nor Ryecroft’s observation from life, to which he might also have added the mind’s facility to think, come anywhere near the consciousness of management at Kingston University. The SMT marches on, trampling over the protests of staff, too many of which are silent, finding no obstacle too large to knock aside, certainly not the knowledge that all but the SMT itself is demoralised and distressed, according to the University’s own survey.

Anyone who has worked in academia for more than a year or two understands that scholarly endeavour is readily oppressed, either by management or other academics. British universities are now embedding this tendency within their own management structures, prompted by a philistine government, supported by a philistine public, and implemented by managers who purport to be academics themselves. Hence performance management, summer teaching, the profit motive are all coming to Kingston, starting with Business & Law, headed by the least academic of all the deans, DadooRon Tuninga. It will come to your school if you do nothing.

That is the problem. The SMT is having such an easy time of it because too many staff are cowering, keeping their heads down, trusting that everything will work out well for them, if not their colleagues. Some have even been seen ripping down UCU posters and leaflets. The majority are obviously not happy with the situation (see staff survey) but are not prepared to stand up: let someone else do it for them, let someone else fight for fair employment terms and a decent pay rise. But soon there will be no one else.

They’re killing us. If our jobs should remain we will still be looking at the end of true scholarship. In future it will be all about bringing in money and churning out trash publications with which to build a shield around oneself. Meanwhile keep an eye on those league tables. Like Mr Micawber turned lecturer we count our league score: a rise of one place in the table equals happiness, a fall of one place misery. We’re all facing debtors’ prison now.

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