Following a petition from several member of the Politics dept, the blog has decided to take most of the post down. The principle accusation of the contribution, presumably from a member of the department, is that the Head and the Deputy Head allocated an unfair proportion of research students to themselves. None of the comments below confirm or deny this. Regarding the rest of the post, it is a personal view of the author. However, Dissenter’s Blog is not intended to be a vehicle for unfair or unjust attacks. So in view of the petition below, the post has been edited.
Further to the claims of this contentious post, figures sent to Dissenter’s Blog, show that Politics has 31 current research students distributed between 13 academic staff. Of these, 5 are supervised by the head of department, 12 by the deputy head. So it appears 58% are supervised by the head and deputy head together. The Blog welcomes comments to support or refute these figures.
Kingston University’s Department of Politics was in 2017
‘restructured’ as part of Plan2020, meaning that it was downsized
through redundancies from 18 to 14 staff (14.4 FTE to 10.4 FTE).
Although this was marketed by KU senior management as a means to improve
efficiency, the results were dire. According to the Guardian league
table, student satisfaction with Politics teaching fell by nearly 5%,
from 79.2% in 2017/18 to 74.3% in 2018/19. The Politics Department
overall did register a tiny jump in the league tables, all the way up
from 75th to 74th place. But this was in the same period when the
university as a whole rocketed up from 81st to 58th place. Of course,
KU’s rapid rise in the tables was because the methodology by which the
tables were calculated was changed, courtesy of the Guardian’s league
table compiler Matt Hiely-Rayner, who by a complete coincidence, was
also Head of Planning at Kingston University. Thanks to Hiely-Rayner’s
moving of the goalposts, some KU departments made rapid climbs up the
league table. Politics should have benefited too – after all, its
Student to Staff Ratio improved from 18.1 to 16.5 in the table after losing four full-time staff-members ! But even all this fiddling of the figures can’t hide Politics’ underperformance.
The VC is desperate to find a feather in Kingston’s mortar board as he mismanages our decline. Taking a previous VC as a guide, Spier has followed the last incumbent but one Peter Scott’s example by writing in The Guardian.
Unfortunately Spiersy has less to say. The thrust of his article is that universities should be punished for the BAME attainment gap that exists in higher education. Unlike last year, he is quiet about Kingston’s figures in this area, whereas last year the boast of Nona McDuffer OBM* suggested the gap had been all but eliminated.
But in an article almost devoid of content, the VC merely
refers in a semi-literate sentence to a ‘key performance indicator’ and an ‘inclusive
curriculum’. No mention of Kingston’s record, which one suspects is no
different to anywhere else. Indeed there is evidence to that effect from KU’s
own records. So hot air about a ‘whole-university drive’ impresses no one. A
call for incentives from the Government is just a special plea for Kingston to
get a higher score in the TEF because we have a target for the gap’s reduction
(no indication of whether or not this has been achieved). That is desperate.
With the University shrinking, all the grand ideas, mostly involving staff
chastisement, have proved ineffective. Spiers and his hopeless management team
have run out of puff. It’s going to need something special to turn things
around, and that won’t come from him.
*Order of the Bad Manager
Some weird events going on in Kingston Business School. And some students are wondering how long it will be before the ‘Kingston Vernon Hill Centre’ is announced. with a fanfare.
The University’s love affair with Vernon Hill, the controversial boss of Metro Bank, has taken another step towards full-blown marriage when the eccentric American chairman (and his dog ‘Duffy’) gave the first Strategy into Practice lecture to a room of puzzled Business students at Kingston Hill. The lecture theatre (which, contrary to the Uni’s fawning write up was not ‘packed’) took on a bizarre atmosphere as the famous double-act of Hill and Duffy described their business strategy: Hill, who is also CEO of Commerce Bancorp in New Jersey and chair of Pet Plan North America (hardly models of ethical integrity) began his talk by asking who in the audience ‘wants to be rich or a star?’ Everyone excelled at something, he said getting all excited, ‘and superstars are just individuals who understand their unique talents’ (meaning himself, obviously).
Hill claimed Metro Bank in Britain has become a ‘legendary brand’ which does not have branches but ‘stores’, and whose customers are not customers but ‘fans’ (eh?). He also babbled endlessly on about his dog, Duffy. ‘My dog is the best known dog in Britain’. It goes everywhere with him, he said, and even helped him pick up his Honorary Doctorate of Letters at the Rose last summer (Doctorate scrolls make tasty pet food). He also told the Kingston Hill students that all the other banks in Britain are ’50 years behind the world’, are ‘burdened by the past’ and their ‘awful’ (his word) I.T., ‘which is only one step above a quill’.
He then signed, for anybody who wanted it, a revised edition of his book ‘Fans! Not customers’. All very nice. But the trouble is Metro’s own I.T. and security record has just been heavily criticised by Which? consumer group. And just this week, the Bank has been forced to tap investors for £350 million, scale back its growth plans and rejig its board as it desperately seeks to plug a capital hole caused by a very serious accounting error. Both the Bank of England’s Regulation Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority have also announced they are investigating Metro Bank over the events that led to this huge accounting blunder. If KU bothered to ask, any good Business Studies student could tell the Uni the blindingly obvious: this is NOT a bank to hold up to students as a managerial role model. But, for some reason, Spier and also the Business Dean etc seem completely in awe of one man and his dog.
Glad to see that the haemorrhaging of staff has been noted. What happened in the KSA Student Office lately seems to be typical. I’m told it went something like this:
The roly mophead manager
Observed her team and said
“Can’t stand these happy workmates,
It cabbages me ‘ead –
They all go the extra mile
When they should be shortcutting instead”
Her aim was clear for all to see
But she didn’t give a feck
She bulldozed on to turn the place
Into a second SEC
Filled with shiny SITsbots
All science-y and tech
So that’s the way it is, I guess,
And wish the team good luck.
Not less is more, but less is less –
And we just won’t think about the NSS
KU’s obsession with management-speak and big managerial heroes can also take other sick-making forms, including naive decisions about awarding Honorary Doctorates to controversial private sector bankers. Last July, members of staff had to desperately suppress their laughter on stage at the Rose when Spier awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters to Vernon Hill, the founder and chair of Metro Bank (who is also chair of Petplan U.S.). A local branch of Metro opened in Kingston in 2013. But the Bank is not exactly a role model for KU graduates. The latest evidence of this is a national report by Which? on the protection of customer accounts from hackers and the poor cyber security of banks. The consumer group has found that the worst performing bank out of the big 12 in the UK is (big drum roll) Vernon Hill’s Metro Bank.
The bullying culture in universities would appear to be ingrained. There have been several articles by anonymous academics in the Guardian on the subject. This not unfamiliar tale of an aggressive overbearing supervisor ensures that the future of research in this country is built on shaky grounds. Dissenter has seen something like this happen at Kingston; a research student lasted about a year before he quit because he couldn’t stand his domineering supervisor. Have you any experience of this? Let us know in the comments.