The Axeman Cometh Again

To axe or not to axe? To spear or spare? Is Spier about to do a ‘University of Kent’ style hit-job and ruthlessly spear Philosophy staff and their subject specialism, or will he spare them?

If there is one thing you can be certain about in the ‘Brave New World’ wannabe technical college (AKA Clownsville) that is being created by Vice-Admiral Sir Steven ‘Two Jobs’ Spiersy and his SLT lapdogs at Kingston Polyversity, it is that the Clown House strategy, with its inept pseudo-business Future Skills BS, will demand ever more ‘efficiency savings’ and economies – and this will always come at the expense of core teaching staff. We have now seen it again and again, through ill-thought out VS schemes or nasty compulsory redundancies. Every time a Faculty at KU announces a ‘review’ or ‘consultation’ in relation to a subject, it’s a sure sign that termination orders have come down to a Dean from the Gold Commandant and his Silver Daleks in the SLT (Senile Leadership Team), orders that mean more cost-savings must be made. Senior Admin staff at KU, many of whom loathe Spiersy behind his back, have been indulging in some grim humour in recent days: they reckon the Vice-Clown’s pet Future Skills project should be renamed ‘Future Kills’.

So it was no surprise to see that KSA is in the Dalek firing line yet again, and this time Philosophy is being targeted for either radical overhaul or complete destruction. Whatever is eventually decided, it is highly unlikely that KSA’s Dean, Mandy Ooer, the former motorbike showroom sales assistant and least qualified Dean in the University, will put up a meaningful fight. She is completely subservient to Spiersy and his gang, and insiders say that her contributions carry little weight in SLT meetings. After previous rounds of brutal cuts to courses in KSA, she did not so much as lift a single finger to protect her staff. Even Spiersy’s ultra loyal bagman, Dave ‘Axejob’ Mackintosh – the oldest man in the University, if not the Universe – who was given the task of trashing courses in 2020-21 (and even secretly received a special financial bonus from Spiersy for doing so), was quite surprised that Dean Mandy went along so meekly with the course closures.

So, things do not look good with this latest news. The question many in KSA and elsewhere in the Uni are asking is, why have they now turned on Philosophy? There are a number of reasons. One big reason is that the subject and its staff no longer has any special protection. It’s a long story, but worth retelling. The Philosophers were previously housed at Middlesex University, but Middlesex decided to close the subject down. Much to their surprise, the staff team and their subject were saved from destruction at the last moment by the intervention of the Dean of (what was then) the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) at Kingston, Martin ‘Sleezy’ McQuillan, who stepped in and offered the Middlesex Philosophers a new home and special place at Kingston. The Philosophers were given a nice big room by Dean McSleezy on the 7th Floor of Pen Road Tower Block, complete with armchairs, a microwave oven and brand new PCs, much to the resentment of other FASS staff. But when it was discovered that, after a year, the room was hardly being used, they were then housed in a similar room on the second floor of the main Pen Road building. McQuillan also stirred further resentment when he appointed a number of ‘Anniversary Chairs’ in Philosophy, spending money that FASS could ill-afford and bypassing the normal HR rules over new staff. McQuillan, you may recall, is the man who eventually left Kingston Uni himself after he was found to be engaged in embezzlement of research funds (a scandal of epic proportions, but covered up by the SLT), and was succeeded as FASS Dean by his close friend and collaborator Simon Morgan-Wortham. When McQuillan was FASS Dean, he and Simon Moron-Worthless had set up a murky off-site operation called the ‘London Graduate School’, and used Kingston’s Philosophers as part of this secretive project.

After McQuillan was kicked out, and the scandal covered up through use of NDAs (Non-Disclosure Agreements), Moron-Worthless became the new protective shield for the Philosophers at Kingston. As Professor of Sleeping Studies (yes, you read that correctly), Moron-Worthless gave some guest talks for the Philosophers, including one on the ‘philosophy’ of sleeping which was so stimulating it made many in the audience sleepy. But, Moron in turn wrecked his own credibility with the SLT when it was discovered that he was having, er, physical ‘relations’ in his Pen Rd EM office with his PA (when his wife found out, she kicked him out and forced him to drop the ‘Morgan’ bit of his double-barreled name). In a scandalous decision, which made a mockery of MeToo concerns, his PA was forced to leave KU but Prof Leg-over was allowed to keep his job. However, it seems that part of Moron’s light-touch punishment was that he was given an office next to the gents toilet in the newly refurbished Holmewood House, very close to the VC’s own office. According to the senior admin staff, this was so that Spiersy could keep a close eye on the Worthless but ‘handsy’ Prof who, as a graduate of Sussex, had ensured he lived up to the ‘sex’ part of his old Uni. It’s known that Spiersy also became pissed off when he heard that Moron-Worthless had been boasting that he could do a ‘better job’ at being VC than the Gold Commandant.

Why was Moron-Worthless kept on and not sacked? It was partly because he could speak the kind of vacuous business talk claptrap that so impresses Spiersy, and the VC could often rely upon Moron to supply lots of KU22+ and ‘Town House’ strategy rubbish (much of the ‘Future Skills’ nonsense has, in reality, been secretly shaped up by Moron). In what was seen as a particularly sick joke on the VC’s part, especially given Moron’s zipper history, Spiersy also made Moron-Wortham take on the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion portfolio for a time. The Promiscuous Prof was also given the task of restructuring FASS, and part of this involved slimming it down and transferring various subjects to KSA. This included Philosophy. In its new Faculty, under a new Dean, Philosophy seemed to thrive – for a while at least – especially through its ‘Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy’ (CRMEP) (or ‘CRAMP’ as some in KSA quickly christened it). In fact, as one of the six research centres in KSA, CRMEP – under its squeaky-voiced Director – had the strongest identity and research profile, while the other KSA research centres (such as art and design history) seemed lost and in need of emergency help.

But there were problems ahead for Philosophy. Already tainted by the serious reputational damage done to the Uni by McQuillan and Moron-Worthless (it was discovered that the devious pair had been exploiting Kingston Philosophy’s special collaboration with the University of Paris 8 to rent a secret flat in the French capital for ‘research trips’), Philosophy at KU found itself under extra close scrutiny. It was forced to drop the special collaborative arrangements with their French colleagues at University of Paris 8, and it became clear that some senior staff in KSA resented the fact that Philosophy taught only postgraduate courses, with no undergraduate programme. There were claims that Philosophy remained elitist and untouchable and was still being given special exemption in the Faculty.

A red warning sign also came in the RBI review of Centres of Research Excellence, undertaken across the the University in November, 2018. Its report to the VC and his Silver gang, delivered in April, 2019, did not make for pretty reading. Reliable sources in the know have told Dissenter that the review made some damning comments about the 120 or so ‘research centres’ across the whole Uni, including those in KSA, such as CRMEP. Not only were Heads of School and Deans accused of having ‘limited engagement’ with the various research centres throughout the University, but research centre activities were viewed as unproductive and ‘restrictive of collaboration’. Unfortunately for the Philosophers, in its assessment of KSA, the RBI review said that CRMEP membership was heavily skewed towards senior staff and no ECRs or mid-career academics were represented. There was ‘limited engagement’ by CRMEP and the Philosophers with the KSA Faculty or across the University, and most of CRMEP’s key activities did not even take place at Kingston but at UAL. Philosophy had only generated ‘small amounts of external research income’ and the sustainability of the Centre was seriously questioned by the external reviewers. It was unclear whether CRMEP could even arrange a meeting of all its members at Kingston, as many of them held other University contracts and were based overseas.

Another self-inflicted mark against the Philosophers, which really pissed off Spiersy and his cronies, and embarrassed Dean Mandy Ooer, came when all the Philosophers put their name to an Open Letter and petition drawn up by staff in KSA objecting to the closures proposed by a ‘Portfolio Review’, which came not long after staff had already gone through previous waves of ‘Plan 2020’ cuts. Dean Ooer suspected that the Open Letter had been the idea of the Philosophers. Creating the Letter and petition was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, of course, but in the long run it also placed huge targets on the heads of the Philosophy staff, and senior managers have been itching to get their revenge ever since.

In the last year projected income in the KSA Faculty in general has been deemed by the SLT to be below the previous financial plan and this reduced the ‘expenditure envelope’ (to use their jargon) available to the Faculty. Research and other income also remained ‘static’. Difficulties over student recruitment numbers now seem to have given them the opportunity to sharpen their axes and cull ‘loss-making’ disciplines in KSA such as Philosophy. Over the last two years, it has become clear that Philosophy has been struggling to meet its PG recruitment targets. In 2023-24 it did not meet student number targets for any of its courses, and this has not been helped by the piss-poor leadership of the current Dean and her senior managers, who have provided no help or support to subjects like Philosophy and the Humanities more generally, and seem completely unable or unwilling to invest in imaginative student recruitment strategies. But there is one thing Dean Ooer and her managers do remain keen to do – engaging in Dalek arsliksan to please the VC. This is already causing pain. Since it was revealed that KSA was undertaking a ‘review’ of Philosophy, it has emerged that the Philosophers have had to suspend taking on any more PhD supervisions. In an effort to limit and close down any negative publicity about the review, the Philosophers have also been quietly warned not to talk about the review. Membership of the review panel has also been kept secret from the wider University staff.

All this follows a familiar and depressing pattern, which we have seen time and again at KU. In order to appease Spiersy and the SLT and their desire to prioritise spending on shiny new buildings and empty-headed BS such as ‘Future Skills’, Deans and managers across the Uni have come under more and more pressure to engage in salami-slicing of courses and subjects.  The Vice-Admiral and his SLT are shit-scared of negative publicity, so they seem to think they can get away with this approach to cost-savings if they do it slowly and bit by bit, sneaking past such cuts when they think very few on he outside are looking. We are now coming towards the end of Semester 2. Philosophy students have been told the Review will take six weeks, and this is already demoralising them, creating uncertainty and resentment. Moron-Worthless, who acted as a shield for Philosophy for a long period, but is no longer a Dean, is now much less powerful than he used to be, his standing diminished in the eyes of his resentful SLT colleagues. As he is now more concerned with retaining his own job, he will not be able to ride to the rescue.

The review group, made up of ‘senior KSA colleagues and wider University staff’, have been tasked with looking at the current market position for student recruitment and ‘trends in Philosophy as a subject area’. Quite what qualifications the panel’s members have to do this and make judgements on Philosophy is unclear. Dissenter doubts hardly any of them have any real sympathy for Philosophy as a discipline, may see the University of Kent as a role model for how to make ‘savings’, and will follow Kingston’s usual market-obsessed Spierland philosophy – an approach which only knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

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3 Responses to The Axeman Cometh Again

  1. Dismayed says:

    Very few Profs at KU meet the Domains criteria, which are very vague, and people at the top (including SLT level) struggle to articulate any meaningful definition of Domains. The whole Domains thing has become a big joke behind the scenes, very much like the Town House Strategy. I am looking forward to hearing the latest BS from the VC about how brilliantly the Clown House Strategy is going. Just think of all the time he wastes trying to persuade his staff how wonderful it all is and how grateful we should all be to his ‘transformative’ leadership. Pathetic.

  2. Miss Mary says:

    Hello peeps, back from holiday.

    Ex-colleagues tell me that Jane “nan” clueless currently interim dean afraid that an online meeting on domains will expose her stupidity (somebody may ask her to record the meeting) held an in-person meeting. This of course did not save her from embarrassment of not knowing anything and just hanging on to a temp job like some maid from Downtown Abbey type place.

    Coming to domains – which professor in this stupid place can meet the criteria? Italian Farting Fatso? who pays money to get published? Stalking Hand? who does not have a single quid as research grant ? under-hill? or the newbies like digital scam sorry cham who ex-colleagues tell me does not even have a PhD …..hahahaha or maybe the Frenchie’s who run a corrupt gravy train for their sidekicks?

    Does any of the head of disaster meet the criteria or just sitting on a post itself is leadership? then why don’t they make my lovely not so young and not so smart former HOD the new dean…..at least she makes the most sense out of non-sense

  3. Those Philosophy staff would be well advised to start applying elsewhere for jobs. Their department is yet another sinking ship at KU.

    Meanwhile, I wonder what became of former University Secretary, Donald Beaton:
    https://www.huntspost.co.uk/news/22986093.vulnerable-missing-huntingdonshire-man-donald-found-alive-well/

    Sir Peter (real name, George) Scott is now apparently Commissioner of (Un)Fair Access in the nether regions of (appropriately) Scotland.
    https://www.educationopportunities.co.uk/sir-peter-scott/

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