The staff deficit model is dead. Long live the staff deficit model.

Once the shortstuff architect of KU’s disaster was removed, mollifying sounds issued from the SMT — well, from Dave ‘Plastic’ Mack anyway — to the effect that Kingston would no longer hold the academic staff responsible for Kingston University’s plight, the crumbling student applications, the sagging league table positions, the dulled-bronze TEF result. As ever with the SMT, its words counted for little. The ‘staff deficit model’ lives.

This is clear enough from the staff monitoring that has become part of everyday life at Kingston. Students now have mobile apps to report staff who are absent from lectures or whose feedback is late. These have already been misused against staff who had done nothing wrong. Clarissa Dashboard is marshalling course data, reading to pounce on any courses with ‘performance’ problems, which of course she will view as a problem with the teachers.

Now, you probably thought you were a decent teacher; you have, after all, a teaching qualification, quite possibly a fellowship of the HEA, plenty of experience, and some decent feedback from the students, at least some of the time (so long as your subject is not too unpopular). But no, you were all wrong. Simon Stoned (head of HR in case you’ve forgotten) has opined that some lecturers don’t know how to teach. You may wonder what expertise Simple Simon has in pedagogy. None so far as this blog knows. An extended probationary period of 18 months for new lecturers is proposed. One member of staff has already had their probation extended due to adverse module feedback. Yes, one MEQ can screw you at Kingston. The mismanagement seems unaware that feedback can be poor for many reasons other than teaching quality, notoriously difficult to measure anyway. Certain groups of people can be disadvantaged, women for example (sexism has not disappeared), or those who teach unpopular subjects, or even those who demand more from their students in the tradition of higher education.

Now the SMT wants to introduce formal management observation of us, complete with a form to assess our competence according to a deficit model. Forcing teaching staff to observe each other in this way is guaranteed to sow division and undermine collegiality, already tattered throughout the University. This looks the best way to destroy what remains of staff goodwill with a consequent disastrous impact on our ability to do our jobs.

And this is not the end of it. What will happen to the few remaining principal lecturers and readers? Is demotion imminent? Professors are under threat too; calls for voluntary redundancies have been circulated. As with Grade 10s, their positions are looking wobbly. Shrinkages to departments under Plan2020 have increased workloads (3 or 4 times in Geography) and necessitated the hiring of more HPLs. More are facing cuts, notably Mathematics which may disappear altogether. If one wanted to shake a university apart and hurry its destruction, this looks an ideal way to do it.

More on all this in forthcoming posts.

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