Tales from the riverbank – September

Dear Colleagues (not for much longer)

The summer is almost over like your career. Things look even worse than a year ago.
At national level we are doing nothing about Brexit, a Higher Education white paper is going to flatten us, the Teaching 100%-passrate-or-else Framework will soon be upon us and we are considering how the changes to the Research Rubbish Framework will affect us. There are few of the old certainties left, except bad management. Locally, the old Town House has gone and our gradual destruction is underway. The new Picton Room will be overrun with students so staff can never escape. I hope that this will encourage people away from their desks to go and jump in the river. It’s not far.

Some things remain similar. Colleagues worked hard over the summer to recruit students with not much luck. Clearing did not reverse the student decline. The current projections suggest that our numbers may be down slightly (a lot); this may put pressure on budgets, however there should be no need for emergency measures, SMT pay will still go up.

The next hurdle is seeing how many students who have accepted places actually find their way here, and then crucially how many can find the door. We do need to give students every reason to feel welcome here so that they choose to enrol, so depressed staff please stay away from them. We all have a role in making new and returning students feel that they are at a proper university. Be sure to charge new students the Fresher’s Fare, a key part of my salary and bonus. The whole welcome process this year is at its new location on Kingston Hill so they don’t see what a dump Penrhyn Road is. Students who engage early on are more likely to do well academically and probably feel so welcome that when they leave they score us highly in the National Student Survey. Most of them can’t be arsed of course and they score us down the bottom.

The National Student Survey results came out at the beginning of August. I sleep with it under my pillow and read a little bit every night. Some areas did spectacularly well – 110%. Unfortunately, others did poorly. The poor performers, and the fact that some of the poor performers are large courses pulled the overall University performance down, we dropped 2%. It’s all your fault you buggers. A summary of results is included below.

Our continued fuss about the NSS is a good thing as the results let me blame everyone but me for rotten league table positions that never improve and damage the reputation of the University. This makes it harder for us to recruit students, our finances suffer and we cannot renew buildings or equipment, and ultimately we would have to shrink. Just what I said I wanted in the first place.
There are reasons for poor NSS performance that are outside the control of the course, at University level, or outside the University (not that I really believe that). The major influences on student satisfaction are local – that is, you lot. Students on high performing courses report that their academics are enthusiastic (despite my best efforts), good at explaining things and get feedback to students on time. The best way to raise standards is to sack me. The courses that have done well work closely together: we have started up a new course, Fashionable Nutrition for Nurses. They care and they know how they are doing, unlike the rest of you.

Some of the poor performing courses are the opposite; I continue to hear about students who have not a holiday for months, or lectures and seminars that are too difficult. These things should simply never happen, we should not have a hard study culture. Some areas are “in denial”, they do not know they’re in a neoliberal world, claim I am “wrong”, or say that their teaching methods are excellent, in spite of the NSS result (the student is always right). We need to ignore those who are doing their best to raise the reputation of the University and be brutal with those who I think are not. We have to get the simple things right, every time, without exception, such as getting feedback to students on time. We will be putting in place a major programme to make everyone’s life a misery. We should be ambitious; there is no reason why we should not make staff lives so wretched they will feel in the bottom 10% of the University. I have been examining the results in detail and I’m coming for you. Senior management will be looking for victims at our SMT meeting in September.

Do let me have any ideas or proposals that you have for attacking your colleagues, I am particularly interested in hearing ideas from those in areas which have done poorly so as to have a ready-made excuse to get rid of you. We also have a lot to learn from those that have done well – so do exchange ideas and initiatives.

Finally, congratulations to Fashion for designing those trendy cycling pants for me – well done!
On a separate note, do look out for announcements on StaffSpace about the Big No One’s Reading Books, not even our students.

Your days are numbered


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1 Response to Tales from the riverbank – September

  1. Surgeon says:

    The VC has gone, but certain Deans just carry on, with the odd sense of inertia. Most Universities are re-instating their science base, but Dean Mike Sutcliffe is busy cutting jobs at KU. Having merged Biology with Chemistry, he is about to cut jobs in Chemistry, just as most other Universities are expanding their Chemistry departments, and Government is about to promote science funding in a response to Brexit fears.

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