Why the long face? KU’s VC and ‘Gold Commander’ Steven ‘Two Jobs’ Spier has been looking particularly glum in recent SLT and Board meetings, despite the happy chappy image he likes to put on in all the Comms photos he loves to issue. Why so? Simple. His ambitious plans to convert the Uni into a Polyversity, or ‘Multiversity’ as he likes to call it, are not going the way he hoped. Quite the opposite. Far from rising in Uni league tables, KU is dropping. A lot.
Spiersy has spun much spin in recent times about how, under his inspired and glorious leadership, KU is ‘going places’ and is racing ahead of all its rivals to become an institution that is pioneering a ‘new progressive model of education’ through a ‘future skills’ campaign. He dreams of eventually grabbing himself an honour from the government as a nice reward for all this and for his retirement. But the masterplan is looking more shaky than ever before, and he knows it. In their hearts, so does his lapdog SLT, who appear enthusiastic about the Town House Strategy in public and to his face, but increasingly lampoon it behind the Vice-Clown’s back (and they have their salaries to protect, of course). To add to his woes, the Board of Governors (BOG) are increasingly cynical about the Clown House Tragedy, sorry, ‘Town House Strategy’, as well. Some of the BOGsters have always held doubts about Spiersy, and those concerns have been reinforced by recent events.
Look at recruitment. Spiersy and his close mates persuaded themselves that investing in big buildings rather than in staff would somehow magically draw in loads of student applications, all stunned and in awe at the sheer size of the Clown House and excited about big plans for a new giant Middle Mill building project. But Undergraduate and Postgraduate recruitment is looking poor. Recent panicky Board meetings have been given some dire figures which show a number of Faculties failing to meet their Home UG targets, with FBSS – to give one example – 13% behind target. And FBSS was one of the Faculties that was culled and slimmed down on Spiersy’s orders! Now the chickens are coming home to roost. Why would students want to apply to a Faculty that has had so much damage done to its reputation? KSA is not faring any better. It is 12% away from Home UG target. Two other Faculties are also struggling. The figures for International UG recruitment are also looking grim. Both FBSS and KSA are reportedly 9% behind target.
At Postgraduate level, PGT Home applicants are very weak for all Faculties across the Uni, and PGT International applicants are also looking very poor (FBSS is 20% behind its target and HSSCE 7% behind). The Uni’s Finance Committee have now started pressing the SLT for updated figures on projected numbers, as they sense things are looking very dark, and the finance team are hinting that a new plan should be drawn up to now include ‘some re-profiling of targets’. That is polite talk for ‘bloody hell – things are looking really shit’. Spiersy’s promises of great numbers for September are plain nonsense and everybody in the know sees this, even if he refuses to face up to the fact. Let’s be clear: this is all happening on his watch and because of his own crappy managerial strategy.
And consider the latest league tables. To add further misery to the overpaid Vice-Clown’s woes, KU was ranked joint 87th out of 130 institutions in this year’s Complete University Guide league table. Yep: 87th! The fact is Spiersy’s ‘flagship’ Uni has moved down a stunning 9 places in the overall rankings from last year. Yes, that’s right – let that sink in: KU has crashed by 9 places and gone into embarrassing reverse. Predictably, and hilariously, the KU Comms team issued a big piece of typical Spier spin on this, which tried to put a positive light on the results – ‘there were a number of strong subject-level performances’, blah, blah, blah. But nothing can hide the obvious truth that, under Spiersy’s supreme but tragically unenlightened VCship, KU is falling into serious decline. The Comms spin put out on the Uni website included a comment from the man himself, where he said that while moving down the table nine places was (clears throat) ‘disappointing’, there were still ‘positives to be taken in a number of areas’. You could hear the laughs across the whole Uni, if not the whole HE sector. Who does he think he’s kidding?
Regurgitating some of his favourite managerial-speak from his dusty Kingston Hill ‘How to manage’ textbooks, ‘Two Jobs’ also said it was ‘clearly a disappointment to lose some momentum from our upward trajectory in recent years’, but ‘improvements’ in a number of subjects and overall metrics ‘are encouraging’, and he was confident KU could still deliver on its TH Strategy. Confident? Does he really believe all this desperate rubbish? Sadly, we suspect he probably does.