A few reminders of what Restruction is all about.

Restruction is “dESTRUCTION by means of a Restructuring exercise”.

What happens when you attack the core values that hold together an academic department? It falls apart. Unless enough patches are put together on time to avoid the sink. Then the sail becomes rougher and rougher, year after year.

Who starts these restructions? A character sketch can be found here (thanks to the friend who sent me the example).

We learn that my former department (restructed in 2012) is rapidly dropping in student satisfaction scores, league tables, in some cases to the last quartile in the UK. Now this is a department that only a few years ago was being “reprimanded” for doing such an excellent job in teaching (see report below) and not focusing enough on research. Its staff suggested more time (i.e. a change in the staff to student ratio) was needed for bringing about a better balance. The managers imposed their own views, which vehemently opposed (trashed) the academic opinion.

Was there a shift in research as a result? Alas, no, the most promising researchers (those who could) have left the place and continue to do so. The results of the “research excellence framework” are only expected until Spring next year, but that exercise saw only half of the staff returned to it – so it will be difficult to compare with the 2008 evaluation. Also a number of big-hitters appearing on that submission are no longer at the University…

I was shown a new set of recent instructions intended to improve the student experience. At the end of that message, managers explain how they will monitor the situation and according to them “the only valid control to which we can compare SBCS is SBCS!”

Well, which SBCS is that? All that was going to happen had been predicted and exposed before the restruction took place. See for example the open letter sent to the managers prior to their finalizing their execution. But are those directing the “University” accountable for gross misconduct now that the outcomes are becoming obvious to anyone who cares to take a look?

The story presented in the Telegraph and referred to above paints the current picture of many UK Universities.

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15 thoughts on “A few reminders of what Restruction is all about.

  1. I learn that “Academic Committee” meetings (the decision-making body within the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences when I was a member of this School) have been replaced by “School” meetings. I ask whether the change in name is a formalisation of the elimination of any academic control in decision making. Is full dictatorial power in evidence?

    There was some discussion below an anonymous letter to the Times Higher Education, which stated among other things:

    “Absence of any internal objections to Allen’s dismissal indicates that his colleagues are fearful for their jobs while some even had the mendacity to appear as tools of management at the dismissal hearings.”

    To me this statement should be examined closely. I know that there were internal objections to Allen’s dismissal; but certainly not letters with 53 signatures (as when Robin was dismissed) or 40 signatures (as when Evans came in with mass dismissals linked to above), which may be what the author of this letter intended to say: where has this dissent gone?

    One colleague (see comments) protested “mendacity” and “tools of management” as being used without due care. Yet, “colleagues” (if the term is still adequate) destroying their peers in an effort to gain management’s favour (invoking intentions is problematic and so the preceding statement comes with the caveat of an unprovable interpretation on my behalf) reminds me of canibalism, back-stabbing, i.e. the sort of attitude that rottens social structures.

    Just like described in the University of Poppleton!

    Finally, I heard that one explanation for the drop in the Student Satisfaction recorded in SBCS (reported in this post) is now being attributed to the influence of staff who “has now left”. If true, that of course leads to the obvious contradiction that there is no need in issuing numerous new policies aimed to improve student satisfaction as the cause for the dissatisfaction is no longer present.

    And of course we should not forget: http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/comment/opinion/education-and-satisfaction-are-antithetical/2016329.article

  2. Once served as an investigation manager to provide a report used by University management to sack your former colleague, then the time is ripe to move into his office. Interesting.

    I see John picked up this tweet

    http://www.jfallen.org/wordpress/2014/11/06/not-extinct/

    to which I also replied

  3. Vauhini Vara in the New Yorker asks
    Is Dishonesty Endemic to Banking and Finance?

    It is spreading through the restruction of universities, I ‘d think. Many attribute the growing dishonesty of university managers to the privatization of public higher. No doubt it spreads below just as Vauhini describes…

    http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/financial-sector-dishonesty-banking-banker

    Also

    Many asked me the exact same question about the infamous manager I opposed at Queen Mary. One explained: “these guys go home and have a laugh at all of this – their salaries have long secured a wealthy living”. This is where we are moving with this new type of leadership in the profit-making business that used to be where knowledge was fostered.

    A reversal is required.

  4. Going backwards in time:
    Will universities’ bullying boomerang?
    Universities (that do pursue such action) would be “taking us back to Taff Vale with this intimidation of individual strikers”, the bloggers write. In 1901, the Taff Vale case saw a railway company sue a trade union for damages caused by a strike.

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/comment/opinion/will-universities-bullying-boomerang/2016974.article (and blog therein)

    and of course more government say on what is “proper” speech:
    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/universities-could-be-forced-to-ban-extremists-under-new-law/2017131.article

  5. “The School has now moved to a College wide Simple Workload Allocation & Resource Management system (SWARM) which is web based and more accessible… Contributions are counted in hours with a nominal year corresponding to 1650 hours… PhD supervision ◦Supervisors are allocated 52 hours per PhD student, divided up amongst 1st and 2nd supervisors as agreed by them…”

    One hour per week devoted to a PhD student. If two supervisors, then less. That’s restruction for you.

    “Teaching – Research Project (30 credits) – 20 hours/student”

    It is now becoming clearer why Evans wanted me out of the School. I probably spent 200 hours in a year with each final year graduate who chose to work with us. I can’t really understand how it can be otherwise. (Delegation of responsibility is of course an option, but shouldn’t that be a choice?)

    Of note, the SWARM does not include time for informal activities. That is academic freedom for you. “The People’s Palace movement” would be delighted… http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen_Mary_University_of_London#History

  6. A report on events at Plymouth University linking the problems there to University Governance. It includes comments by Sir Nicholas Montagu, Chairman of Council at Queen Mary University of London, who has approved the restruction of QMUL. I left a comment below the report, too. Hopefully one day more details will be widely understood on my – still open – dispute with the College.
    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/features/feature-where-next-for-university-governance/2017279.article

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