Tales from the Riverbank – December

Dear Unbelievers

Three important policy statements for the Higher Education sector have been released by the Government in November. I think it is important that I pontificate at everyone in the University, so apologies (not really!) if this month’s Newsletter is as boring as hell.

Saturday Clubs: Stuff the policy statements… on Sunday I went to the National Art&Design Saturday Club’s interim show. This is a project that brings 14-16 year olds into the University to listen to pop music on the radio. Somehow I fooled them into thinking I’m that young (well I am a bit of a shortarse). The participants who had been to Kingston said it was “well cool an’ shit.” As well as our involvement with the Kids Club, we piloted the new Saturday Engineering Club into the ground. These all show Kingston’s commitment to avoid the real problems in higher education.

Simulation: Bringing great wallpaper into education was apparent at the opening of the new Decoration Centre at Tooting. As well as realistic mock-ups of lecture rooms, students can become familiar with the lay out before having to sit and listen to a lecture whilst simultanenously listening to music blaring on headphones and chatting to their mates. There was a wonderful “immersion room”; a room with all round projection which can be used to simulate a book, or a manager (complete with loud talking and bullshit). This helps students think about the varied environments they might find themselves feeling sick in.

Partying: Fortunately, the paramedics did not get called out to the sold-out staff University party, which apparently was awful (I had better things to do). Although the Christmas period is meant to be a holiday, it can be tough financially with the pay cuts and demotions I’m implementing (and getting pissed to forget the hell I’m giving you). So I hope the Kingston University Benefits payment you receive (you didn’t think I was going to give you anything worthwhile did you?), as well as the contribution towards staff Christmas meals (big deal!!), will help a little. I’ll be getting a rather larger bonus if I have anything to do with it.

Green Paper: Back to the policy documents… The first to be released was the Green Paper (a wrecking document) on Higher Education. We will be launching a “Talking Point” on the Green Paper (same as consultation – we ignore it) on Wednesday 2nd December, so I wouldn’t bother if I were you.

The Green Paper suggests three main areas of change to Higher Education. The government wants universities screwed over; it believes that the sector is rubbish so wants to make life hard for us –by us I mean you of course (I’m okay). So, it proposes making it easier to set up a new university and start awarding degrees. I’m going to set one up in my garden shed. A consequence of this means that there will be some failures of universities – looks like you’re all buggered then.

The next area that the Green Paper focuses on is how universities are regulated; it proposes dispensing with HEFCE (the Higher Education Funding Council for England) and creating a new Faculty Office for Students (FucOff?) with powers to shut down all public universities, particularly Kingston. It’s okay because I’ll be gone by then.

It is proposed that the TEF will divide universities into tiers – probably four (Privileged, Russell and his mates, other Tory supporters, Shit (Kingston?)) The amount universities will be allowed to charge students will be about a tenner a year. This means that those in the lower tiers will have increasing budget challenges (ie. broke).

So what does this mean for Kingston?

The devil, that’s me!, will be in the detail and in the final White Paper. As it stands the Green Paper offers some opportunities to close us all down. Recognition of teaching, and that context matters, acknowledges things that we used to do well before I took over. Few universities will be able to demonstrate as high a level of staff sackings as Kingston. Many of our initiatives, including outsourcing teaching to Fulham Football Club (sick as a parrot) to raise my salary, shrink everyone else’s, turning universities into neoliberal hells, address key issues in the proposed TEF, and help us to keel over.

Demoralising teaching staff is likely to be a key measure in the TEF. Initiatives like “Academic Promotion and Progression”, where we have a clear stream abusing lecturers, and Kingston Academic Practice Standards (KAPS), which supports staff to get meaningless “professional” status with the Higher Education Academy, will enhance our TEF submission. Focussing on the needs of management to sack yet more staff is being done through the Student Management Target Operating Model (TOMTIT). We have to continue to threaten poor performers in the NSS in parts of the University as this will give us scapegoats.

The key message is: that we have identified all the wrong areas during our change programme – and we need to carry on doing them.

Nurse on Research: Yawn, I’m bored. Stuff Nurse … (geddit)

CSR: The final key statement is the Comprehensive Spending Review which sets out Government spending on a postit note over the next few years. Everything will be reduced. This means that there will be reductions in funding – but not to my salary. We have a fair chance of presenting all the excellent work my predecessor did (but that I claim the credit for) in widening access.

My next Newsletter will be in 2016; it does not look as if the pace of destruction in Higher Education is going to slow down at all. I have done many of the right things over the last few years to put the University in as ghastly a mess as we could be in. Our work on shrinking participation and waffling on about the attainment gap without actually doing anything is leading the sector. Our Academic Promotion and Development abuses position us well for the TEF. Indeed, if we get this right there is no reason why Kingston should not be the worst for staff morale, attaining one of the higher levels of bully award in the TEF; screwing our reputation; transforming our League Table position rapidly downwards and making it impossible to recruit students.

There is no room for complacency – and definitely no need for optimism. As we shrink more and ruin our reputation I can look forward to a big pay off. We have plans for more white elephants in our Estate and in staff (start looking for a new job) that we will be defining and bringing to our lapdogs (Board of Governors) over the next few months.

I pretend to hope that you all have a refreshing Christmas/New Year break, however wretched I make you feel. I am looking forward to seeing family (they have no choice) and getting time to throw some OAPs!

Bad wishes


PS Christmas is cancelled.

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