More Consulmania

The KU consultation farce continues. Vice-Commander Steven ‘Polyversity’ Spier has become obsessed in recent times with forcing big changes on the University by using the ‘consultation’ as a tool of top-down management. As we have said before, the tin-plated Admiral and his Senior Lack-of-Leadership Team have been using consultations more and more to impose their will, sucking the whole meaning out of the consultation as a genuine exercise.

Another example of KU’s consulmania has just reported and – no surprises here – decisions made before the consultation even began have been pushed through regardless, with the claim that staff were ‘consulted’ and their feedback was ‘incorporated’. The reality, of course, is that staff were given no genuine say in the matter.

In May, the Joint Faculty of Health and Social Care (FHSC) issued a proposal to relocate 7 nursing staff and one HPL currently based at St. George’s University London (SGUL), to KU’s Kingston Hill campus. The proposal was that those staff affected would be based at the Kingston Hill campus, but would also be available to work ‘as required’ from SGUL or any other place as directed by their kind-hearted bunch of Managers. The launch of the consultation and all its aspects was handled by the Head of Nursing Dr. Julia Gale, or ‘Doc Fail’ as her underlings privately call her.

The outcome of the consultation has now been made available and it is, er, painful reading. Far from being open to any alternatives suggested by staff, the relocation of the nurses ‘will progress as planned’. So there! Take the medicine or else, you suckers. It is democracy in action, North Korean style. Kingston Hill campus will be the ‘main contractual base’ of the 7 nursing staff and the HPL from 23rd August, 2021. KU has agreed to continue to help with individual costs for travel and so on, but just for one year! How generous (not). One nurse who has witnessed all the ruthlessness with which the ‘consultation’ has been carried has told Dissenter that there was a like it or lump it attitude towards the nurses by managers, and the whole thing has left a very sour taste back at St. George’s. But many nurses are too frightened to speak out and have their say because they are fearful over what this might do to their future career prospects.

The country has owed a huge debt to nurses during the pandemic and they work exceptionally hard for little pay. The Gold Commander was happy to arrange photo opportunities for himself with nurses and also covid vaccination staff, milking it for all it was worth. But it is clear Kingston University managers are not interested in the real needs of FHSC staff, and the consultation used here is yet another example of the Spiersy ‘We say, you obey’ approach to management. We can also reveal that St. Georges will be in the Uni news again very soon, and it will be a major upset. Prof. Spier-spin will, as usual, keep a safe distance from it all and hide away in his Bunker. He has asked two Deans to prepare the announcement instead.

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Keeping the ‘Con’ in Consultation

Here we go again. Vice-Admiral Steven ‘Polyversity’ Spier’s bonfire of courses and services at Kingston University rolls on with yet more ‘consultations’, the latest one being an IT Service Delivery consultation. It is all part of what the VC has called his ‘Future Organisational Model’ (FOM), and he was squawking on about it again in the latest Board of Governors (BOG) meeting, held on 23rd June, and in the special BOG Dinner held afterwards. It makes you almost feel sorry for the BOGsters. Almost.

The self-annointed Gold Commander, who is like an absentee landlord who refuses to meet his tenants, loves to hide away from students and staff in his Holmewood Bunker (when he can be bothered to even turn up, of course). He has also taken to sheltering behind the mirage of the ‘consultation’. The only time he dares to emerge is when he can spin a line to a BOG meeting, or to certain favourites in the SLT (he does not trust them all, you see), and a favourite strategy is now to employ the ‘consultation’ as a convenient cover for cuts. But don’t be conned.

In recent times we have had to suffer a ton of ‘consultations’: in 2018 there was the chaotic Research, Business and Innovation (RBI) consultation, which set out plans to ‘reconfigure’ RBI. Staff input was treated with contempt. In 2020, the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education made many nurses completely miserable with proposals to ‘realign the Academic Business Units’ and force more depts to shift to Kingston Hill. Again, staff objections were overruled.

The Uni’s spinmeisters always point to MOR procedure (Managing Organisational Restructures) to try to portray the ‘con’-sultation as a way of involving staff in shaping the way forward. Don’t be fooled. It is nothing of the sort. In the hands of Spiersy and his Lack-of-Leadership Team, it is a meaningless device, the favoured tool of managerial tricksters who seek to cover up their incompetence by claiming to be democratic and consultative. In the hands of Admiral Spier-spin, the word consultation combines ‘con’ and ‘insult’ all in one nasty little soundbite. The reality is that a Kingston consultation is shaped by a ‘We say, you obey’ approach, a top-down SLT formula designed to sideline those pesky bloody lecturers and their annoying questions. All the key proposals have been decided beforehand, and staff contributions are are regularly ignored.

The latest con-insult-ation will follow the same pattern. The main decisions have already been made. It proposes huge changes to service delivery functions within IT provision across the University, and will have a hugely detrimental impact on all teaching staff. According to an announcement placed on the Uni website the changes will help the delivery team work ‘more flexibly’. Oh, yeah? The reality is that there will be no on-campus IT support for classrooms, workshops and science labs – the support ‘team’, which has already experienced job losses from previous cuts, will be slimmed down even more, and everything in future will be provided remotely. If you are in a classroom or a lab on site, and suddenly find the p.c. has a fault, the sound does not work, the mouse has gone, or your slides will not project – well, tough. Don’t expect an IT team member to quickly come to your aid. You will be on your own, left hung out to dry like an idiot in front of your pissed-off students who still expect the session to start on time.

The BOGsters need to realise that Commandant ‘Poly-Uni’ Spier’s consulmania is leading Kingston over the cliff. He may squwark endlessly on about how great the new FOM is going to be and how the ‘Polyversity’ will be comprehensive and innovative, but staff on the ground know it is all the BS of a deluded conman.

To add insult to injury, recent weeks have revealed the spectacular incompetence and poor quality of the SLT Mis-Managers who have been conducting consultations in FBSS and KSA. The con-sultation on Politics, International Relations and Human Rights in FBSS, overseen by Jill ‘what’s the point of human rights’ Schofield, has turned into an insulting farce. Staff have not been provided with the proper and full documentation, which breaks MOR guidelines and is also illegal, and they still have little idea of how many face the axe. In meetings with staff, all ‘The Scoff’ has been interested in doing is to complain over and over about ‘leaks’. It was clearly a diversionary tactic, designed to avoid the fact that the FBSS consultation has been handled very, very badly. The FBSS managers have now reluctantly conceded that there will have to be a second round of negotiations after the outcome to the first con-sultation is published.

Recruited by Admiral Spiersy in 2018 on the basis that she was an ’eminent business management expert’, Dean Scoff has brought all the bad habits of her time as a manager for BUPA Hospitals to Kingston Uni and tried to apply them to running FBSS. It has been a disaster, and the Politics con-sultation rubs salt into the gaping wounds. Spiersy has been disappointed about The Scoff, especially when she alienated Business Studies lecturers up the Hill, and she has been desperate to get back in his good books. The result has been a determination to drive through radical restructuring, and Politics were deemed an easy target. But it is not quite going to plan.

And now word has reached Dissenter of a similar major display of incompetence and indifference to loyal staff in KSA. According to reliable sources in the Faculty, the KSA con-sultation, which closed over two weeks ago and should have resulted in a final outcome document by Tuesday 22nd June, has now been delayed. The committee overseeing the con-sultation, chaired by Dean Mandy ‘Who Her?’ Ure, has failed to submit its findings to the SLT for review, and has awarded itself an extension! Yep. An extension. We kid you not. The agony must continue for those staff whose jobs hang in the balance. Shocking, isn’t it? But this is the level of uselessness and contempt for staff wellbeing that now seems the norm at KU.

It should come as no surprise. In meetings with staff, Ure has apparently been evasive and unable to answer very basic questions. She has seemed lost and out of her depth. This is what happens when you have Admiral Spiersy appoint a patsy as Dean. Ure is the least qualified Dean on the SLT and, prior to KU, her only experience of staff management was as an advisor to a motorcycle showroom and a brief spell working for Bristol Driving School. After the useless Dean Rhodes left KSA, Ure suddenly found herself rapidly promoted to the Deanship in order to carry out Spiersy’s dirty work. But even that seems beyond her abilities. Her KSA middle managers are now openly slagging her off behind her back. One of them, a former HoS who nurses her own ambitions to be Dean, has even tried to leak things to Dissenter. We did not bite.

Spare a thought for the staff who are worried about their jobs during all these con-sultations. While Mis-Managers fight amongst themselves like cats in a sack, and the VC keeps himself at a cowardly distance as the ship slowly sinks, the livelihoods of hardworking staff have been put in great danger. The claim that KU cares for its staff is the biggest con of all.

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Kingston ‘leading the way’ in BS

Looking like he had just wandered in from a Bram Stoker novel, Kingston’s Vice-Admiral and self-proclaimed ‘Gold Commander’, Steven ‘Poly-Uni’ Spier – ever desperate to spin some good news – announced on 9 June that the University was spearheading what he called a ‘Future Skills’ campaign.

In a news release placed on the main KU website and on other platforms, including twitter, it was grandly announced that Kingston is ‘leading the way’ in a ‘major campaign’ designed to highlight the importance of a ‘creative education’ and ‘entrepreneurial innovation’, and the need to provide employers with the ‘skilled workforce of the future’. A pathetically thin report is also available. The new campaign is obviously designed to shift attention away from all the negative course closure coverage of recent weeks, and you could hear the cynical laughs of staff echo across the University. It was also clear that the bumbling Admiral had been plagiarising from his ‘How to speak Business BS’ pocket-book guide again (still on loan from Kingston Hill Library Services, with a hefty fine due).

The campaign has been launched, said an excited Spiersy, after a YouGov survey of more than 2,000 employers – conducted for Kingston – revealed the key concerns of businesses across the UK and the ‘portfolio of skills’ they believe are vital for a thriving economy.

Published as part of what has been termed ‘The Future Skills League Table’ report, the results, according to Commander Spiersy, show the ‘top ten’ professional attributes that leading firms, including Deloitte (the VC’s favourite outside consultancy firm), Mastercard, and Liddle, consider key to ‘business success’. The Admiral wanted to include Metro Bank in the press release, but was apparently talked out of it by a worried PA. (Strange that. Has the Vernon Hill and his dog ‘Duffy’ Business Centre project been quietly dropped? We should be told).

The Skills Table identifies skills such as problem-solving, communication, critical thinking and digital prowess, and there is vague talk about ‘the rigour of creative problem solving’ – in other words, all the skills that the overpaid members of the SLT themselves, especially the VC, woefully lack. The SLT’s very own Professor of Sleeping Studies, Simon Worthless, who has been advising the hapless Admiral on Equality objectives (we kid you not), can hardly be described as having the ‘ability to build relationships’, unless they are with female PAs he can get his leg over with. Even the Uni’s new grey parrot mascot has a better portfolio of analytical skills than most of the SLT’s Deans.

What’s this really all about? Dissenter has been reliably informed that this shiny new ‘business skills’ language was first road-tested by the VC in his meeting with Michelle Donelan, MP, the Minister of State for Universities, during a virtual visit by the Minister to the University on 28 January. Spiersy hosted the meeting with Donelan for about 55 mins, and other attendees included Jennifer Edwards, Head of Public Affairs and Insight for KU (bet you didn’t even know there was one, did you?), a Public Health official from the Royal Borough of Kingston, and a doctor from the local medical practice, perhaps on hand to administer emergency aid in case the VC bored anyone to death.

But an external source has told us (outside contacts are very useful, you see), that the Minister of State was not all that impressed with her close encounter with Kingston and its inept Gold Commander, and did not really take to him or his embarrassingly rehearsed BS. In fact, it was a massive thumbs down afterwards to her special advisers. The visit was supposed to concentrate mainly on Kingston’s public health response to Covid and how the vaccination centre was operating. But Spiersy also insisted on a one-to-one with the irritated Minister, where he bent her ear for over 15 minutes. Oh deary: it was another blood-draining foul-up by our overpaid Gold Commandant. Spiersy is said to have bombarded the Minister with his usual bland delivery and self-importance: he talked a great deal about the University’s ‘mission’ to enhance student life chances through ‘inspired learning’, advanced knowledge, ‘innovation’, and ‘providing society with the skills society needs’ (pardon?).

There was also a lot of drivel about Kingston’s ‘data-driven approach’ and big claims were made about how KU, under the VC’s inspired leadership, has been at the forefront of ‘many initiatives’. But here’s something we think is the most revealing amongst all the dross: the Admiral also showered the Minister with lots of statistics about the huge value of the ‘creative industries’ to the economy, which he claimed is greater than the automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil/gas industries combined (sorry, staff, he evidently does not rate your studies in those areas too highly – he is, after all, a former KSA man).

According to our informant, the Minister looked unimpressed, even bored. The VC had clearly spent hours and hours writing a set script beforehand, and was doggedly determined to work his way right through it, rather like a poor student seminar presentation, and with all the delivery of a toy dog with its batteries running low (a kind of plastic ‘Duffy’, with yawns and yaps).

No doubt the VC later spun all this as a great success to the SLT and BOG (Board of Governors), but that is very far from the truth. And much of what he said in that meeting with Donelan has now been reproduced almost word for word in the ‘Future Skills’ news spin announcement and document. After all, why waste a previous speech? If it had been put through Turn-it-in, though, he’d be in the dog-house.

But here’s the main takeaway: the emphasis on ‘creative industries’ and the skills needed for them is a major clue to what the VC’s eventual ‘Polyversity’ vision is going to be. As Dissenter revealed in an earlier blog, ‘Restructure’ plans presented to the VC by the Deans of FBSS and KSA on 28 January are just part of a much bigger restructure plan, and it has disturbing implications for staff throughout the Uni. We can reveal that a Paper tabled at a meeting of the Senior Lack-of-Leadership Team on 31 March gave some more details on this major restructure plan, and the message is grim: it involves a radical overhaul of Faculty structures across the University, including further slimming down and realignment and more drastic cuts to staff to save on costs. Expect yet more empty ‘consultations’. The Gold Commander and his Silver shysters on the SLT have spent time going over the KU Functional Structure charts and have hatched yet another new plan, a kind of ‘plus’ on KU22+ (think of it as KU22 ‘Plus Plus’). The main emphasis in future will be on gearing everything to a ‘skills’ agenda, especially ‘creative skills’ and ‘business skills’. Parts of the University will operate more like arms-length business enterprises, their main purpose being to generate as much income as possible. The University will also revert back to using more interim, fixed-term and temporary HPL appointments to ease up on staff costs.

It is the VC’s ‘Polyversity’ wet-dream taking practical shape, and it is bad news for all staff, no matter where you are in the Uni’s structure. After the failure of the Plan 2020 Turnaround Plan, the VC and his useless lickspittle SLT came up with ‘KU22 plus’. They now hope that ‘KU22 Plus Plus’ will finally kick the University into shape and save their skins (and pensions) in the process. For them, it will be trebles all round. The extra ‘plus’ in all this, though, will inevitably involve a ‘slash and burn’ approach, and numerous staff will be victims.

The grim irony of all the VC’s talk about key skills has not gone unnoticed by the 55 or so staff in FBSS and KSA who currently face redundancy after fraudulent consultation exercises. As the University’s UCU branch have pointed out, all the top ten core skills for a prosperous economy listed in the ‘Future Skills’ report are precisely the skills that are taught in Politics, IR, Human Rights, Media and Comms, Film Studies and History. As usual, though, there is a deathly silence from the VC on this point. He really is a creature of the night, so frightened of his own shadow that he refuses to meet students or staff, and much prefers to operate from the dark, using his SLT zombies to do the bloodletting.

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Undecision, unleadership and contempt

This blog has touched from time to time on the qualities of leadership. Many would agree that, whatever particular attributes a leader should have, there are few in management jobs, especially senior positions, who possesses them. From big corporations and institutions, including our government, down to small town councils, it seems remarkable how many are badly run or fall victims to catastrophic decisions or just plain neglect. Perhaps the good ones simply go unnoticed but the noticeably bad ones are by no means rarities.

What are the abilities one would desire in a leader, especially a university leader? Should they be good academics with an impressive research record? Not necessarily. There is no reason to suppose such a person should be any good at management, although in many universities a long research record is usually the only route to a senior job. Leaders should be good at making decisions, of course, but specifically good at making the right decisions. This requires understanding and insight, rather imponderable qualities perhaps; but most important is empathy with the staff who are being managed.

The best we can say about Kingston University’s management is they don’t follow the lore of academic achievement: Spiersy and crew’s research record is modest at best. The crucial absence, in common with so many other university leaders, is the skill to make good decisions. In fact the overwhelming characteristic is undecision. This is not indecision, the dithering between options, but the lack of ability or motivation to make any decision.

Over the years I have had cause to write to senior managers at Kingston and other universities, usually with a complaint or a point of concern. Each time I have been struck by how the manager never makes their own decision but defers to one already made by someone lower down the order. The preservation of the status quo is sacrosanct, the willingness to think again in paralysis. Hence there is only one option for Kingston’s senior management to deal with the tribulations of the University — cut budgets, cut departments, cut staff.

At Kingston the fear of redundancy or the sack has been part of the job for several years. Clearly this does not trouble Spiers and company, even though academics and support staff who are persistently worried are not in the best state to do their jobs. The contempt for them from the SLT is the most damning of all its failings.

Who is to hold this useless management to account? Not the government, itself one of the most incompetent ever to run this country. Not the governors who have so far presided over the steady decline of Kingston, happy in their sinecures and self regard. Not even the staff who have trouble supporting industrial action in defence of their pay, still in long term decline. The sun is shining but the climate darkening. Pull down the blinds and pretend it isn’t happening.

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Kingston to rebrand as ‘Polyversity’

In a very rare appearance on campus, Vice-Admiral Steven ‘Poly-Uni’ Spier, Gold Commandant of Kingston University, exclusively revealed to reporters from The Hogsmill newspaper (the University’s new replacement for The River) exciting details of the recommendations of a KU rebranding exercise. The exercise was recently conducted on behalf of the University by outside consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Speaking through the letter-box of the front-door of Holmewood House, as the two reporters sheltered from the rain in the front porch, Admiral Spier confirmed that an image of a psittacine (otherwise known as an African grey parrot), would be the brand new symbol of Kingston University. In future, it will appear on all University letterheads, on websites and adorn all marketing material. New students in September will also be issued with free pens and notepads decorated with the African grey.

Commandant Spier said: ‘We recently invested a huge sum in commissioning a report from PwC and I am proud to announce that, following their recommendations and some comprehensive market survey data, the African grey parrot will – from this point onwards  – symbolise our new journey towards a Future Organisational Model (FOM). The FOM will be a Polytechnic-University structural model, with Polyversity status. The African grey sums up the forward-thinking values I want to see embodied in a contemporary, modern, post-Brexit, post-Covid, post-University, ‘Poly Uni’, and I will be asking staff (those who still have jobs, of course) to write down these values on yellow Post-it notes and display them all around my Kingdom, er, sorry, our Estate’. He added: ‘Other institutions have animals and wildlife to symbolise their values, such as owls, ferrets and unicorns. The grey parrot, with its undoubted multiplicity of skills in linguistic repetition, captures the types of vocational and other training we wish to instil in our students as they enter the wider world of employment’.

The VC also exclusively revealed to The Hogsmill,  in a muffled voice as the rain hammered down (and not helped by the grey blanket he had over his head), that his new vision includes a plan to ‘modernise’ Kingston’s graduation ceremonies. From mid-2021 onwards, the VC will have a real-life African grey parrot on his shoulder when he attends each of the ceremonies. A new and exciting part of this ceremony, which the Admiral hopes will become a regular tradition at Kingston, will be the free distribution of peanuts and other birdseed to the families of graduating students. Towards the conclusion of the proceedings, parents will be invited to throw the nuts and seeds back on to the stage, to induce the VC’s parrot to squawk loudly in appreciation. A specially composed musical canzonetta will accompany this moment.

Later the same day, Dave ‘the knife’ Mackintosh also spoke to The Hogsmill about the exciting new rebranding of University operations. Temporarily revived for the day through electric shock therapy, and wheeled out in his new motorised bath-chair (created for him by two bored engineering students at Roehampton Vale), the VC’s faithful bagman revealed: ‘Our new parrot has already made appearances at SLT meetings and delighted everyone who attended. In fact, it outshone many of the senior managers present with its ability to contribute to policy-making and to repeat the VC’s endless blandishments in a huge number of the same ways’.

Dr. Mackintosh added that Kingston’s African grey is still at ‘training’ stage, however, and it prefers at the moment to stick to ‘Give us a kiss’, ‘Hello Sailor’ and ‘Put the kettle on’, but the VC is apparently hopeful that, in the near future, the parrot will be promoted to become a full Dean in charge of one of KU’s Faculties. Mackintosh pointed to a recent email from the VC to his senior staff, where Spier stated: ‘This is more than a rebrand. This is more than a rebrand. It is a major step on the road to full Polyversity operational success. Operational success. We want graduates who will be fully poly-able. Give us a kiss’.

When The Hogsmill asked Mackintosh where all the money will come from for the latest rebrand, the oldest man in the University said: ‘Don’t worry. It will come from the savings we intend to make from getting rid of 55 or so staff in the next few months. Bunch of shirkers anyway’.

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Government expands university vocational courses

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