From: Professor and Gold Commandant Sir Steven ‘Two Jobs’ Spier, Vice-Clown, Kingston
Sent: 08 November 2023 16:55
To: All Staff Types and other Peasants
There is no doubt we are operating in a particularly challenging national context, which has nothing whatsoever to do with my poor leadership skills or failing Clown House Strategy. That is why my ambitious and truly visionary strategy is so important, and why we need to work even harder to maintain my unquestionably high reputation as the UK’s foremost V.C. and the world’s leading architect (and expert on Swiss cheeses). It enables us to work towards and deliver a better future, not just for your careers but also to save my bacon, rather than simply managing difficult circumstances with the very few resources I have made available to you. Our transformative mission and four supreme values in the Clown House Strategy – inclusive, innovative, ambitious and enterprising – far from being fancy words I merely plagiarized from a textbook I found at Kingston Hill, drive what we are delivering, not just over a cliff or on to the rocks, but with increasing impetus (good word, eh? Almost as good as ‘transformative’. Took me ages to find that one).
The challenges facing higher education are unlikely to abate any time soon, despite the current financial model we have operated at Kingston being, frankly, unsustainable. I have spent millions on new buildings so that I can leave my mark, and legacy, at Kingston, and exciting new buildings are still planned, but – regrettably – tuition fees are still languishing at the £9,250 set in 2017, something we forgot to build into our financial planning forecasts. Had they kept pace with inflation, the fees would now have reached £14,000 a year, and I would have been able to build yet more ‘legacy’ buildings. At the same time, Kingston is contending with spiralling operating costs, and the financial squeeze hampers my ability to innovate and build yet more wonderful buildings in honour of my supreme leadership.
Of immediate concern in the current climate, in addition to all the damage this is doing to my reputation as a ‘transformative’ V.C., is that you have not met our recruitment targets for undergraduate and postgraduate students by some measure. What the hell have you been playing at, you useless sods? This is due to problems with our own processes, such as staff not working as hard as I clearly do, as well as changes to the market. We are addressing both. I have been busily reading the business pages of the Daily Torygraph, my newspaper of choice, which I am going to make freely available at all the main campus entrances, and which I hope to see being embedded into our Future Skills strategy by all staff.
Not meeting our student numbers directly affects our financial plans. I still need loads more cash to build lots more buildings, and to secure my future (and, dare I say, inevitable peerage). We are already changing our recruitment and conversion processes to deliver our recruitment targets, have adjusted Faculty and Directorate budgets (i.e. cut them), will exercise tight cost control (apart from the thousands of pounds of spending I needed to do on all the nice banners for
my our TEF Gold rating), and, at least temporarily, curtail our plans for investment.
To begin addressing these challenges, I have already instructed the Execution Director for Students to convene a Conversion Task group (great title, eh? I found that one in a old manual left by my predecessor), which will cover both UG and PG recruitment, with an immediate focus on conversion for the January intake (yes, I told you, our mess is bad). I have also instructed Senior Managers to start
pressurising offering the weaker and less able members of teaching staff, such as some of the old duffers you see around Pen Rd and Knights Park, a nice VS package. Cutting down on staff and saving costs in this way has always been my favourite option, and it is now a familiar tried-and-tested model at Kingston, which we like to roll out whenever we face deep shit dire circumstances. I have instructed my favourite bagman, Dr. Dave ‘the knife’ Mackintosh, to oversee this difficult but necessary process. Despite him being the oldest man in the University, if not the Universe, Oddjob (as I fondly call him), or Axjob as most of you have named him, has consistently refused VS himself, as he has plenty of experience and skills in cutting staff and even whole departments (for which I paid him a special bonus to keep him sweet). He has already set to work on identifying all low-recruiting courses that could be quickly culled. We did this before, and we’ll do it again! This is what Future Skills are all about – past skills employed in ever more innovative and Futuristic ways.
We are also conducting a very quick review of all our recruitment processes, and have already removed unnecessary criteria that hinder offer making. Basically, in the future, if a student wants to come here, we shall say ‘yes, you’re in’ immediately, no questions asked. We are that desperate, you see. We are also:
- Undertaking a detailed review of our marketing, recruitment and admissions processes, and will recruit a few students to leave leaflets on buses, on public benches in parks, and at the check-out tills in Sainsburys.
- Developing a Polyversity-wide strategy for overseas recruitment, which is now much more competitive given that every other University in the UK is doing exactly the same thing. It will also enable me to have more trips abroad and stay in nice hotels, something that is a vital part of this strategy. I can also test my Future Skills by visiting the best restaurants and tasting the local cuisine.
- Reviewing markets, those strange things we claim to understand but we don’t really, and what we offer, focusing on those bits of the world with the most potential to boost numbers and save my skin. We shall leave KU leaflets at all major sites across the whole of China, India and South America, including at all public conveniences and on park benches.
- Continuing to improve those programmes that are not performing well academically and therefore not attractive to applicants (yes, you know who you are, you idle so-called Profs). We envisage a radical slimming down as the outcome of this transformative process, ideally with just a handful of younger staff in each Faculty, all on fixed-term contracts. Simple.
- Continuing to embed Future Skills in the curriculum, even though hardly anybody understands what these really are, and driving advances in knowledge exchange and research (still sounds good, though, doesn’t it?), to ensure we are sought after as the world’s leading institution at which the most talented people (such as myself) want to study and work.
Playing your part
So, staff types, the Senior Leadership community (as we now refer to ourselves – good, eh?) is committed to returning Kingston Polyversity, er, University – under my truly inspired leadership – to a position in which we can invest yet more cash in future inspierational (get it? Good, eh?) buildings and cut down on burdensome waste-of-space staff. Because of the shorter timeframes attached to all this, if we take the correct approach as set out by me (with a bit of advice on wording from Simon Moron-Worthless, our innovative Professor of Sleeping Around Studies), we should be able to remedy this swiftly. If we don’t, then I will have to hold all of you responsible, and take action accordingly. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. We have overcome all the great challenges and failures that have happened on my watch in the past and, once again, we must come together to navigate through the situation I have accidently created through no fault of my own.
All Senior Leadership Team members have been holding meetings with their teams to discuss the current situation in more detail and encourage people to seriously consider whether they wish to stay. If more of you do not accept our generous offer of VS, then don’t moan or cry when we put you out of our misery. Our Interim University Secretary, Mr. Adrian Parrot, has been working on the Heath and Safety aspects of this process, and we shall take strong action against any of you who decide to shout abuse at Senior Managers or make fun of the V.C.’s weird contact lenses. I know I can count on each and every one of you to support the vital activity needed to save my job and reputation. By coming together to drive these improvements I am confident I can keep positioning KU as the institution of choice for all who read the Daily Torygraph and therefore secure my place in HE as one of the most admired Vice-Clowns you have ever had the privilege to serve under. To ease the pain of what is to come, I have also placed a nice statuette called ‘Striding full-length female nude’, just outside my office, and I invite all staff types to book a time with my PA to come and gaze in wonder at this piece of innovative sculpture, a piece which brings me a great deal of personal pleasure.
With best wishes,
Steven ‘two jobs’ Spier,
Vice-Clown and Dear Leader