Looking like he had just wandered in from a Bram Stoker novel, Kingston’s Vice-Admiral and self-proclaimed ‘Gold Commander’, Steven ‘Poly-Uni’ Spier – ever desperate to spin some good news – announced on 9 June that the University was spearheading what he called a ‘Future Skills’ campaign.
In a news release placed on the main KU website and on other platforms, including twitter, it was grandly announced that Kingston is ‘leading the way’ in a ‘major campaign’ designed to highlight the importance of a ‘creative education’ and ‘entrepreneurial innovation’, and the need to provide employers with the ‘skilled workforce of the future’. A pathetically thin report is also available. The new campaign is obviously designed to shift attention away from all the negative course closure coverage of recent weeks, and you could hear the cynical laughs of staff echo across the University. It was also clear that the bumbling Admiral had been plagiarising from his ‘How to speak Business BS’ pocket-book guide again (still on loan from Kingston Hill Library Services, with a hefty fine due).
The campaign has been launched, said an excited Spiersy, after a YouGov survey of more than 2,000 employers – conducted for Kingston – revealed the key concerns of businesses across the UK and the ‘portfolio of skills’ they believe are vital for a thriving economy.
Published as part of what has been termed ‘The Future Skills League Table’ report, the results, according to Commander Spiersy, show the ‘top ten’ professional attributes that leading firms, including Deloitte (the VC’s favourite outside consultancy firm), Mastercard, and Liddle, consider key to ‘business success’. The Admiral wanted to include Metro Bank in the press release, but was apparently talked out of it by a worried PA. (Strange that. Has the Vernon Hill and his dog ‘Duffy’ Business Centre project been quietly dropped? We should be told).
The Skills Table identifies skills such as problem-solving, communication, critical thinking and digital prowess, and there is vague talk about ‘the rigour of creative problem solving’ – in other words, all the skills that the overpaid members of the SLT themselves, especially the VC, woefully lack. The SLT’s very own Professor of Sleeping Studies, Simon Worthless, who has been advising the hapless Admiral on Equality objectives (we kid you not), can hardly be described as having the ‘ability to build relationships’, unless they are with female PAs he can get his leg over with. Even the Uni’s new grey parrot mascot has a better portfolio of analytical skills than most of the SLT’s Deans.
What’s this really all about? Dissenter has been reliably informed that this shiny new ‘business skills’ language was first road-tested by the VC in his meeting with Michelle Donelan, MP, the Minister of State for Universities, during a virtual visit by the Minister to the University on 28 January. Spiersy hosted the meeting with Donelan for about 55 mins, and other attendees included Jennifer Edwards, Head of Public Affairs and Insight for KU (bet you didn’t even know there was one, did you?), a Public Health official from the Royal Borough of Kingston, and a doctor from the local medical practice, perhaps on hand to administer emergency aid in case the VC bored anyone to death.
But an external source has told us (outside contacts are very useful, you see), that the Minister of State was not all that impressed with her close encounter with Kingston and its inept Gold Commander, and did not really take to him or his embarrassingly rehearsed BS. In fact, it was a massive thumbs down afterwards to her special advisers. The visit was supposed to concentrate mainly on Kingston’s public health response to Covid and how the vaccination centre was operating. But Spiersy also insisted on a one-to-one with the irritated Minister, where he bent her ear for over 15 minutes. Oh deary: it was another blood-draining foul-up by our overpaid Gold Commandant. Spiersy is said to have bombarded the Minister with his usual bland delivery and self-importance: he talked a great deal about the University’s ‘mission’ to enhance student life chances through ‘inspired learning’, advanced knowledge, ‘innovation’, and ‘providing society with the skills society needs’ (pardon?).
There was also a lot of drivel about Kingston’s ‘data-driven approach’ and big claims were made about how KU, under the VC’s inspired leadership, has been at the forefront of ‘many initiatives’. But here’s something we think is the most revealing amongst all the dross: the Admiral also showered the Minister with lots of statistics about the huge value of the ‘creative industries’ to the economy, which he claimed is greater than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil/gas industries combined (sorry, staff, he evidently does not rate your studies in those areas too highly – he is, after all, a former KSA man).
According to our informant, the Minister looked unimpressed, even bored. The VC had clearly spent hours and hours writing a set script beforehand, and was doggedly determined to work his way right through it, rather like a poor student seminar presentation, and with all the delivery of a toy dog with its batteries running low (a kind of plastic ‘Duffy’, with yawns and yaps).
No doubt the VC later spun all this as a great success to the SLT and BOG (Board of Governors), but that is very far from the truth. And much of what he said in that meeting with Donelan has now been reproduced almost word for word in the ‘Future Skills’ news spin announcement and document. After all, why waste a previous speech? If it had been put through Turn-it-in, though, he’d be in the dog-house.
But here’s the main takeaway: the emphasis on ‘creative industries’ and the skills needed for them is a major clue to what the VC’s eventual ‘Polyversity’ vision is going to be. As Dissenter revealed in an earlier blog, ‘Restructure’ plans presented to the VC by the Deans of FBSS and KSA on 28 January are just part of a much bigger restructure plan, and it has disturbing implications for staff throughout the Uni. We can reveal that a Paper tabled at a meeting of the Senior Lack-of-Leadership Team on 31 March gave some more details on this major restructure plan, and the message is grim: it involves a radical overhaul of Faculty structures across the University, including further slimming down and realignment and more drastic cuts to staff to save on costs. Expect yet more empty ‘consultations’. The Gold Commander and his Silver shysters on the SLT have spent time going over the KU Functional Structure charts and have hatched yet another new plan, a kind of ‘plus’ on KU22+ (think of it as KU22 ‘Plus Plus’). The main emphasis in future will be on gearing everything to a ‘skills’ agenda, especially ‘creative skills’ and ‘business skills’. Parts of the University will operate more like arms-length business enterprises, their main purpose being to generate as much income as possible. The University will also revert back to using more interim, fixed-term and temporary HPL appointments to ease up on staff costs.
It is the VC’s ‘Polyversity’ wet-dream taking practical shape, and it is bad news for all staff, no matter where you are in the Uni’s structure. After the failure of the Plan 2020 Turnaround Plan, the VC and his useless lickspittle SLT came up with ‘KU22 plus’. They now hope that ‘KU22 Plus Plus’ will finally kick the University into shape and save their skins (and pensions) in the process. For them, it will be trebles all round. The extra ‘plus’ in all this, though, will inevitably involve a ‘slash and burn’ approach, and numerous staff will be victims.
The grim irony of all the VC’s talk about key skills has not gone unnoticed by the 55 or so staff in FBSS and KSA who currently face redundancy after fraudulent consultation exercises. As the University’s UCU branch have pointed out, all the top ten core skills for a prosperous economy listed in the ‘Future Skills’ report are precisely the skills that are taught in Politics, IR, Human Rights, Media and Comms, Film Studies and History. As usual, though, there is a deathly silence from the VC on this point. He really is a creature of the night, so frightened of his own shadow that he refuses to meet students or staff, and much prefers to operate from the dark, using his SLT zombies to do the bloodletting.