Tales from the riverbank – July

Dear Brexited

The world feels like a very different place to how it did since my last European jolly.

The EU Referendum

The vote to leave the EU has left me saddened – I might not get such a big pay rise next year. The likelihood is that the majority of you were for remaining as academics instead of the serfs you’ve become. Some will be heading for the exit soon enough. The University did not take a stance on the referendum because I don’t really give a damn. I’m all right Jacques. We will remain a place open to debate and discussion, where your minds can be shaped.

The first thing to say is that there is no need to panic more than you have been since I arrived on the scene. We want to remain an international institution welcoming staff and students from all over the world and providing our students with opportunities for enriching our (my) coffers. There are already active discussions going on within the Alliance Group and UUK about how we can mitigate the impact of exit on VCs’ salaries.

Short Term: In the short term, there will be no change in the status of students or staff apart from a continued reduction in numbers. We will fight for our highly skilled expert staff to have the right to receive declining pay in the UK, and our ability to continue to lose the best we’ve got.

This does not mean that there are no short term worries.

It is possible that international students will see the referendum vote in a way that might suggest Kingston’s not worth a boat ride. There may well be a fall in international student recruitment this summer. Uncertainty may well also lead to a fall in students seeking admission through Clearing – that’s my goal anyway. Our modelling had suggested that we might succeed in reducing our (reduced) student number targets this year. Failure to meet our targets will have consequences for our income and we will have to reduce costs (i.e. get rid of staff, close schools) if this happens. This means that you lot are going to have to work extra hard to recruit students over the summer (cancel your holidays) to counteract the mess I’m making of things.

Medium Term: It isn’t hard to predict what will happen to home student recruitment when my policy is to cut numbers. A recession may improve student recruitment (if they can’t get into better universities) or adversely affect it if people do not want to take on the huge debts that keep me in clover. Whatever happens, it is likely that the Higher Education space will become more spacious and that the key route to survival will be through bullying the staff to do more for less.

Long Term: The Brexit campaign suggested that the funds spent at the moment on the EU would be invested in the NHS, education and research, and there would be no reduction in spending. Not that it makes any difference to me. When I’ve fleeced this place I’m retiring abroad. I hope I am wrong, but I suspect that a recession may mean that there will be less for me to spend. Announcements from leaders of the Brexit campaign have already talked more bollocks than me. This means that we are going to have to be even more careful with our planning, especially if we do not want to put our long term investment plans, in the Estate and in our top-heavy management at risk. Looks like we are going to be cutting your pay.

The Higher Education and Research Bill, currently going through parliament is now at risk, the debate over Brexit leaving no time for the Bill. This might mean that we will not be able to raise our fees by inflation as we had planned. Yes, definitely going to cut your pay.

All this means that there is even more uncertainty in our future. The SMT and Board will be discussing the various options and then carry on scuttling the ship.

 

Responding to Brexit

Right, this is my favourite bit. Appearances and league tables is, and will continue to be, key to everything we do. Too many students at Kingston are learning in disciplines that are in the bottom decile of their competitor group. You know who you are. This means your school is shit and I’m coming for you. Some of those areas have shown steady improvement (you might get a stay of execution), however others show little sign of change. We need to have a rapid climb of the tables, so that we do not have any disciplinary areas in the bottom decile and aim to have none in the bottom quartile by 2020. That way we will be in the top three quartiles along with all other universities. We will continue to waste energy on bouncing about the tables until everyone quits or drops dead through sheer exhaustion. You get the blame, I get a huge pay rise. How’s that for quality!

We will therefore be enhancing our programme of euthanising Faculties to “improve” those areas which are under-performing. Bullshit sentence of the day: The EU exit has highlighted the fact that we will find it challenging to support areas that find it increasingly difficult to attract students and adversely affect the reputation of parts of the University that are thriving. What this means is Fashion and Nursing are in, everyone else better start worrying about their job. You already are, of course.

 

Business as Usual

Despite the momentous changes, there is still business as usual!

As we launch into this brave new world, I am delighted to report that Simon Morgan-Motors Worthafortune, who has been playacting Dean for 9 months, has been appointed PVC and Dean of FASS, in open competition with a very strong field of neoliberals. I am going to need the subservient agreement of Simon, the rest of the SMT, our Board, and all of you (if you’re still here) as we face a new set of challenges.

The choice of our next KU Big TimeWaster The InHumans was announced a couple of months ago; I am delighted to let you know that our very own edition is now available. Copies are available at a reception desk or LRC near you. I’ve already used mine to prop up a table with a dodgy leg. A book is being sent, along with a circular letter from the author Matt Haig, to every student who has accepted a place at Kingston, we hope this will help them feel they shouldn’t keep complaining. Do please read it and think about how you could avoid teaching your subject while making up some rubbish to say about the book. The emails being sent out to prospective students by our Comms Team have made regular references to the book only costing them £9000 in the first year, so do please build on this. Apart from anything else, it’s a really good read! Words are a bit too long for me though.

This week we are launching the new and improved Rose Awards 2016 to pretend we think our staff are outstanding. The Sick Rose Awards pages to find out more.

The ”seismic” changes of the last week do not change the fact that we work for a university (would you believe) which is neoliberal, managerial and changing for the worse. It will thrive whatever the future holds only if I resign – fat chance. As long as we waffle on about being innovative and continually challenge ourselves to improve and do our best in our teaching, then nothing will get any better

Yours threateningly

Jools

 

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