Quite a few of us may have experienced a 1990 Thatcher moment last Monday when we read the VC’s resignation email. He’s gone: wave the flags, open the champagne, but most of all, breathe a mighty sigh of relief.
Kingston has been forced to undergo changes by this Government, true, but Ratty’s aggressive approach has mainly been destructive. We can now look back on some of his more barking ideas with droll amusement, like the wish for open-plan offices, the ban on cluttered desks, and the 9 to 5 presence of academic staff waiting on the pleasure of students — all quietly dropped. Not so the callous persecution of grade 10 lecturers, subjected to the humiliating requirement to reapply for their jobs with the ultimate threat of demotion and a deleterious pay cut, and so badly handled that staff could make no sense of the whole wretched procedure. Then there was the “retirement” of many academics, including some of the best, the removal of so many support and admin staff that the University now struggles to function efficiently. Student numbers are shrinking, we are slaves to the NSS, Kingston’s league table position is much the same as when Ratty first rode up to River House on his bicycle. Hardly a success story.
Why is he going now? According to Ratty, differences between him and the Board of Governors about the University’s strategic approach. Or in other words, he is finally rumbled. Even the remote Governors could not remain unaware of the Rat’s disastrous effect on moral throughout the University, the steady trickle of resignations from the academic and support staff, our declining reputation. This china bull in a trinket shop has wreaked havoc.
The question now is what kind of replacement the Governors will come up with. We live in neoliberal times and that kind of thuggish manager is commonplace; a number of examples remain on the SMT. But let’s hope the Board has learned its lesson and remembers at least the generally good relations between staff and the previous incumbent, Peter Scott. Cooperation and consensus go a long way in a university.
Meanwhile I am sure the staff will want to wish Ratty the same. On your bike. You won’t be missed.