Sir Christopher Snowden vs University of Surrey

Let us “refocus on current strengths”. Perhaps we were currently somewhat unfocused but nevertheless strong. Or perhaps we can “reduce” our current strengths (“staff”) to gain a more viable “student-to-staff” ratio. After all students pay more now, they need fewer teachers. The article “Anger as Surrey plans to slash jobs in politics department” by Holly Else of the Times Higher Education attracted a lot of commentary from local staff and students. The language used by the Vice-Chancellor, Sir Christopher Snowden, is astonishingly similar to the one used by Simon Gaskell a few years ago in his disastrous mismanagement of Queen Mary. Sir Christopher Snowden represents the executive heads (vice-chancellors/principals) of UK university institutions. He was Knighted in the 2012 New Year’s Honours for services to engineering and higher education. Together with Simon Gaskell and others, Sir Christopher then issued this letter against the lowering of student tuition fees.

It is encouraging that the debates on the future of the politics department at the University of Surrey are taking place openly. Normally the secrecy surrounding similar impositions means that attention from the outside comes too late, after the bullies have bulldozen through. (After all, once the fire has burnt the forest it takes a while for new vegetation to grow; and only if the land behind remains fertile and protected). This post is a reply to one of the commentators, Robert Corbishley, who asks “Hasn’t the University of Surrey just decided, in a rather hard-nosed way, that it’s not happy with quality of its politics staff and thus wants to replace all but five –hand-picked, despite the redundancy process– of them?” Precisely so, is also my view, but then bear in mind it is hard to prove such complicity. The manager who allegedly hand-picked me for dismissal denied doing so and argued instead that he was monitoring who was being affected by his criteria thresholds during the restructuring because he had a responsibility that the School should remain functional: Robert also points out: “Rest assured, at some later, but too far away date, it will recruit to replace these redundant staff with people it considers of better research quality.” He is quite correct again, but then the Employment Tribunal that looked into my case remained equally unimpressed about such recruiting in the midst of “redundancy situation”:  My case is with the Employment Appeal Tribunal and will influence the legal standing of disputes like the one Sir Christopher has unleashed against the University of Surrey. Alas, when the academic goes to court it appears as Academic vs University instead of Academic vs “Executive” or “Manager”. What do these people really have to do with University? They destroy and move on elsewhere. Already the two Vice Principals who were called as witnesses regarding my dismissal from Queen Mary are “working” at Kings and Aberdeen, respectively, and so their appearance as “Queen Mary” on paper is a real issue and misnomer. So here is my question from this morning on twitter:

I add this unfolding story to the ones previously reported in this space: Briefing on the state of affairs in the UK academy – June 7, 2014 King’s College London – July 4, 2014 University of Essex – September 2, 2014 Warwick University – September 8, 2014 Imperial College – December 1, 2014 and my proposed solutions for how to get rid of this executive disease: Ophiocordyceps unilateralis

7 thoughts on “Sir Christopher Snowden vs University of Surrey

  1. News on Chris Snowden:

    I copy comments I left under the Times Higher Education news piece over Chris Snowden’s move.

    Chris Snowden was mentioned in these pages only a few days ago. He advocated for fewer academics to teach the students in the politics department at his former University. He also said something I am still trying to interpret using “refocusing on current strengths” as an explanation (?) for proposing the “sacking over half of current staff”.

    There is also talk on twitter about V-C salaries approaching annually £400K, almost 10 times what an academic starting at Southampton would receive. Government ministers wrote to Universities to stop this trend. If Hefce continues to approve funding for universities that pay such salaries to their “executives” or whatever else they call them, is it not supporting the corruption of the system? It looks to me that the only reason for the high pay is to entice weak characters to pursue policies that do not recognise genuine academic contributions. The sackings that take place under the tenure of highly-paid managers are made possible because of the money that goes into their pockets. In developing countries illicit passing of money sometimes happens behind the scenes and is rightly condemned. In the developed world such practice seems to be institutionalised and is wrongly (at the expense of the 99%) celebrated.

  2. Hm. These ants remind me of the Vice Chancellors.

  3. Excellent letter of support from London School of Economics

    However, institutional corruption means misuse of public funds

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