Tales from the Riverbank – February

Dear Valued Staff*

The New Year has started, on January 1 to be precise. Or was it January 2?

University Divestment Plans: On Jan 13 the University Board agreed that over the next 10 years we need to invest substantially more money than we have ever done before in our salaries and projects to revamp our project management. Our estate falls just as soon as the demolition team gets here. The Board’s commitment means we can go ahead with our aspirations to knock down Penrhyn Road, Knights Park, Kingston Hill, Roehampton Vale and make a mint on flogging the land for executive homes with swimming pools and underground cinemas – quite fancy one myself. We can start improving the Estate and ensure that as we get rid of one building we do not stop and think about what to do next, just stumble blindly on as we always do.

We have already made great strides with IT. Students from each of the campuses attended the recent Board to talk about their issues; one Board member pointed out that none dared mention IT as a problem. I know the staff are complaining but who cares about them.

The Board is, at a time of change and uncertainty caused by managers like us, saying that we are an ambitious and confident University with great staff (but not meaning it). We will be starting to have numerous and endless conversations within and outside the University with anyone who will listen. By summer we will have waffled even further and there will be opportunities for staff to be ignored at every stage.  We will make sure we have a framework that is flexible and modular and adaptable and changeable and circumstantial and … oh bollocks to all that. Who knows, if things go really well in the next few years perhaps KU will close sooner!

League Tables: On the 14th, one above 12th, the Times Higher League table of the Universities most interested in league tables, came out with Kingston in the top 150 in the world (just below 200th place). This table looks at a lot of numbers, adds some other numbers, and takes away the one you first thought of. Our position in the table will undoubtedly help our aim to be in more league tables.

Big Read 2: One of the most successful initiatives of last year was the “Big Read” – it boosted Penguin’s profits nicely. We are well into planning the 2016 Big Read. Over 100 titles were suggested to the organising committee of staff and students. The long ones have all been thrown away. The six will now be weighed by the adjudicating panel and a final decision made in April. The panel will be looking for a book that meshes with the Kingston ethos – mangerial, aggressive, anti-intellectual, neoliberal, bullying …; that only has short words and not too many of them. All six books will be available to borrow in the LRCs for those of you who haven’t enough work to do. The six shortlisted books are (drum roll on skull…..)

 The Inhuman Resource Dean Moron
Girl becomes DVC L-J Eales-Writer
The boy from Kingston who became VC Julie Wineboozer
Fucked: The State of Kingston University Georgie Porgie
Dead in the Road Ronnie Kray

BME Attainment Gap: Another good bit of news in January was about our progress on mouthing off about the Attainment gap initiative. Kingston has been taking a lead on this. We have made talking about the attainment gap a University target; that has meant that we are now saying a great deal but doing nothing as usual. We have also taken important steps in encouraging staff to go through unconscious bias training because it’s obviously their fault. I am pretending that this is starting to make a difference and the BME attainment gap has reduced significantly (even though it hasn’t really).

New Style PhD: As well as being unbelievable in undergraduate education we have introduced a new style of Doctorate, PhD by Doing Nothing New. This offers scholars like managers and Deans who have developed self-important work but been unable to get it published because it’s no good the chance to justify their huge salaries. It is not an easy route to PhD, the work has to be of the highest wafflety and the candidate has to pay the University a large sum. There are many people outside Universities, who have written at the highest level (in Switzerland and other mountainous countries, for example) and would love to have a PhD – I hope we can sell them Kingston. We also hope to award life peerages soon – for a suitable donation of course.

Teaching Fellowships: February sees the launch of our new Teaching Fellowship programme where we will recognise teaching excellence in three colleagues and excreable teaching in all the rest, targets for the next bullying round. TEF here we come.

Performance/Developmental Review: Amidst all this ghastly news, one concern. We are ambitious, and confident, the Board tells us that. We are evading reality in areas like the Big Read, the attainment gap, broadening access to the PhD. We will be a broadly based diverse wide manifold diversiform University, removing opportunities to people we don’t like. We will do that without compromise on management decisions – what we say goes. There is no reason why we should not be between a rock and a hard place one day!

The only thing that can hold us back is ourselves – well, me but tough shit. Although more staff are having performance reviews/appraisals, one third are still not (my spies are watching you). This is not good enough. All staff should have regular pointless meetings with their line manager so that we have a good flow of endless and meaningless chatter around the University. Appraisal is not a once a year excuse for sacking you – it should be a regular occurrence. I do not think you can manage without regular bullying sessions with everyone you line manage.

Student Surveys: Finally, the National Student Survey and Level 4&5 surveys are about to commence. Staff briefings are being given all across the University at all campuses, and these sessions explain why the surveys are more important than teaching and provide guidance on how to rig them with students. It really is important that you listen to all this blather, so if you haven’t done so already please click here for details of the briefings. The student surveys are not just about academic staff, although they are in the firing line if it all goes wrong. We all have a role in making the University a place where students are persuaded to give good NSS results.

The NSS results of 2015 were the best Kingston University has ever had and I really believe we can do even better this year. This ‘survey period’ should be seen as a time of worry, worrying for students that their university will look shit, and worrying for staff whose schools are for the chop if they do badly. Every single member of staff contributes to result if it’s bad, but I take the credit if it’s good. Therefore, I hope you will get involved in encouraging students to fill out the survey, ensuring I get recognised for the great VC I am.

Yours

Jools

* Excludes PLs, underperformers, anyone I don’t like the look of

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