Hon degrees for the corporate fleas

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.

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Bullying of research students in universities

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.

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Happy New Deja-vu

How’s this for management speak:

Domains are intended to personalise careers, by creating a flexible matrix of possibilities that aid both staff and their managers navigate through some of the traditional career tensions encountered in academic life to support and value the breadth of work that a modern academic does.

One gets the sense that the SMT is desperate. All the upheavals instigated by the thoroughly discredited Weinberg have done nothing to halt the decline of Kingston University’s fortunes, indeed the reverse. Spiersy’s missive contains all the impenetrable waffle you’d expect from someone bereft of any clear thinking; the management virus has completely overwhelmed any academic powers of reasoning that may have existed. Anne ‘pint of’ Boddington has a hand in this, a manager already with a reputation for dumping on staff. What is a ‘flexible matrix’ for staff? Academics teach or research or both. Ideally academics should be able to do some of each (disregarding those for whom research has been about jumping on someone else’s coat tails and avoiding teaching). How can this be twisted into something else? The true motivation lies in the last paragraph which refers to a ‘one-to-one discussion with your line manager…’ Looks like yet another way to weed out more staff. Kingston’s shrinkage continues.

Talking of old bankrupt ideas, another revival of a failed policy is the TOM (targeted operating model — remember?). This was an attempt to reorganise the administration — get fewer people to do more work. Admin staff naturally didn’t like the sound of this and many cleared out pronto. Result: worse support services and falling morale. Now called the ‘professional services review,’ the intention is the same. It looks like tech support, already inadequate, is set to be pared away even further. The idea apparently is to have a single support hub for the entire University. Yet more redundancies in the offing.

What of HR, lately abandoned by its head Simon Stoned (who never did know what ‘good looks like’)? His performance monitoring, Stoning staff to death, seems to have been dropped. One would like to think the SMT has realised you can only piss your staff off so much, but it’s more likely that the impetus left with the man. He has yet to be replaced. The person offered the job in the last recruitment effort turned it down. Could it be the applicant realised what a bad place HR has become? For some time the department has been haemorrhaging staff and now complaints about slowness and inaccuracies are mounting.

The Academic Management Framework (don’t you grow weary of all these management titles?) has rare merit. The idea is to rotate managers every four years. This practice has been common in some universities for many years. Its big advantage is those who turn out to be useless, like some politicians, have their capacity to do damage limited. The drawback is that good managers can’t stay in place, but there are too few of those at Kingston to worry on that score. But the application of the AMF is inconsistent; it’s happening in some departments, and not in others.

Without too much irony let this blog wish readers a Happy New Year. If you have any thoughts, or know what has become of the remaining PLs and readers (who will now be demoted), or teacher performance monitoring, please comment below. And if anyone has their own interpretation of the Spiered sentence above, do share them. For the best entry there will be a first prize of an enhanced flexible career domain profile.

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Happy Christmas

One thing you can say about Kingston, the chaos and obscuration are consistent. The recent nonsense from the VC about “personalising” careers (how can they be anything but personal?), yet another structural review in the offing, no clarity on the fate of PLs (are any left?) maintain the unsettled feeling for all staff. Part of the management plan?

More on this after the holiday. In the meantime, try and forget it all. Happy Christmas to all our readers.

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The Merry Knives of Windsor: A Seasonal Tale for Xmas

‘Twas a cold Winter’s day in November, in a House in Olde Kingstone Towne. Ye old King Steven (for it was he) lounged on his shiny new office sofa and surveyed what was left of his rapidly diminishing Kingdom. He rang for his loyal servant, Sir Greysuit Loanalot, who came running quickly up the newly varnished stairwell. ‘Sir Greysuit’, cried the old King, ‘I have devised a cunning plan. Forsooth, let us have our traditional SLT Away-Day in somewhere more grand and majestic, this time fit for Royalty.’ ‘You mean stay in the Borough?’ ‘Nay, nay, you silver-haired fool! Let us hire a Lodge in Great Windsor Park! We can escape the masses and all our messes and make merry. We can invite all our Knights of the £600,000 Table, and all our token lasses, and all our tribe of anonymous Guv’ners, including their Chair’.

Sir Greysuit frowned worriedly. ‘But that would cost yet more golden dosh, my Sire’. ‘Yes, yes’, cried the old King, ‘much more dosh, but more suitably posh. And who will know?’ ‘But what about the River?’ ‘Never mind the Thames’. ‘No, no, Sire. I mean the River newspaper?’ Sir Steven grew visibly angry. ‘Have you forgotten our secret SLT motto? Confirm nothing, deny everything’.

The very next morning, as the heavy fog slowly lifted and ye old clouds cleared, Sir Greysuit waved his magic money-tree wand, and a booking suddenly appeared. And then, verily, the big day came. A grand and merry time was had by all, in a Royal Lodge in the Great Park, ‘with a strong reputation for its fine dining’ and ‘luxury en-suite overnight accommodation’ (according to ye advertising scroll). While the big booze flowed, and King Steven glowed, knives were sharpened for yet more ‘efficiency savings’ for his old Kingdom and its Estates. But after the deeds were done, it was time for some fun. Sir Colin and Dame Angela sang some old ditties, while some of the Guv’ners ate more cream cakes, direct from their plates. Former Court Jester Stone was wheeled in for ye olde fireside tales, claiming he had ‘once single-handedly privatized the whole British rail network’. Next on the list, as the guests became p—-d, was failed FASS Dean, Sir Simon Shagalot, who told the good and attentive Knights about his sincere concern for women’s rights, especially lasses in tights. But what was this?? An olde ghost at the feast? A former Knight named McQuilly tried to ambush the throng, but King Steven blocked him off, with a dismissive ‘Be gone!’, supremely confident that a super-deluxe ‘non-disclosure agreement’ (inked by hand on old goat’s parchment) had dealt with the irritating Scottish foe.

The only Knight to quiver with real fear was Sir Simon, who was once McQuilly’s close peer (the former pair’s dubious past could now ruin his career). King Steven smiled knowingly to himself: ‘Thank God I kept a nice little dossier on both, as one is a fraud and the other’s an oaf’. And off the SLT all went, treading clumsily into the Windsor Park Park’s snowy breeze, safe in the knowledge that their pay packets will never, ever freeze. Merry Xmas, peasants!


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Reader’s verse 2

The following fully transferable song can be sung about any SMT member simply by substituting names au choix (“Wilks, huh,” etc.). It should be enjoyed to the driving rhythms of Edwin Starr’s ‘War’.

Spier, huh, yeah
What is he good for?
Absolutely nothing
Spier, huh, yeah
What is he good for?
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, why’all
Spier, huh, good God
What is he good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
Oh, Spier, I despise
‘Cause he means destruction of innocent careers
Spier means tears to thousands of mothers’ eyes
When their sons go to teach
And lose their jobs
I said, Spier, huh, good God, why’all
What is he good for?
Absolutely nothing, say it again
Spier, whoa Lord
What is he good for?
Absolutely nothing, listen to me
He ain’t nothing but a heart-breaker
(Spier) friend only to the Jobcentre
Oh, Spier he’s an enemy to all mankind
The point of Spier blows my mind
Spier has caused unrest
Within the younger generation
Induction then indebtedness
Who wants…
Spier, huh, etc …

(with acknowledgements and apologies to the late Edwin Starr)

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