I learned that fresh reflections of Peter Lawrence had been published from a post on twitter
“Managing a team of Process Improvement Project Managers, the Head of Process Improvement will champion a change in behavior and culture at QMUL, placing process improvement and the value for money agenda at the heart of professional services both centrally and in academic schools.”
What should we learn from the recent suicide at Imperial College? A collation of comments from the discussion in the Times Higher Education pages gives hope. However, one commentator, Jim, has spotted a danger: “If we tar all senior management as the same simply because they are making people redundant, decent compassionate people will opt out and only the real monsters will do these jobs.” I would say reform is urgent, for “The record suggests… such monsters are climbing high on the ladders.”
How to avoid petrification from the real monsters? Reform is required with respect to university governance; I suggest we pay close attention to concerned academics:
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. (more…)
I recommend, if you haven’t done so already, to read Marina’s new article in the London Review of Books – Learning My Lesson (also available as a podcast if you prefer). To someone injured from the rough discovery that Queen Mary was successfully turned from a community of scholars advancing knowledge into a money-making enterprise (its Principal stating in a letter to all staff a few days ago “Given this context, it is encouraging to report that our audited accounts for the last Financial Year (2013/14) show an operating surplus (after removing one-off items) of just under £14.9 million…”) finding out that there are like-minded individuals who expose the crude barbarism of the sector’s appalling clique of bankers (as in most principals, vice-principals and their private aids) sounds like Orphic music, like reaching the peak of the Alps and gazing down the view, an eagle flying beneath reflecting the sun. I write to express a silent feeling of gratitude to you Marina.
Last week I visited colleagues that continue to work at my former department. I and others had our affiliations severed following the restructuring of SBCS in 2012. My trip coincided with the publication of the names of individuals (and their contributed papers) representing SBCS in a major UK government evaluation, known as the REF. It is therefore unsurprising that conversations centred, amongst other things, to an evaluation of the REF outcomes for the department and the effects the restructuring had on its performance. Some of the comments I heard are difficult to transmit without placing valued colleagues or myself at risk of further reprisals. In this category I place important matters such as the wellbeing (health) of friends who have been put under “performance management” or subjective views on the dramatic shift in what is being valued and rewarded within the restructured department.
In Mexico, bean-counting is also referred to as puntitis (Jorge Quevedo) or cuentachilismo (Marcelino Cereijido). My local colleague and celebrated author has created with his student Claudia Edwards a three-paragraph gem on the stupidity of bureaucratic managerialism in science. You can read it in Spanish here. The text is so good that I have translated the 5 concrete examples of “modern” stupidity below. The international reader will instantly see that the crisis Pirincho (as Marcelino is also known to his friends) describes is by no means a “third world” problem.
In 2007, I started on my first independent position in the School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London. Two years later Sir Nicholas Montagu was appointed Chairman of Council and Simon Gaskell was appointed Principal of the University. They formulated a strategic plan with the explicit aim to rank QMUL in the UK’s top-ten list according to the Government’s Research Excellence Framework assessment.
REF probably means little or nothing to scientists around the world, unless they work in Britain. This is the final week, prior to the preliminary announcements of the Research Excellence Framework (REF) “assessment outcomes”, which “will inform the selective allocation of research funding” and “provide benchmarking information and establish reputational yardsticks“. Are you REFable or a REFugee? asks THE editor John Gill. He would probably classify me to the latter category 🙂 Yet, Lord Stern of Brent, President of the British Academy and Sir Paul Nurse, President of the Royal Society have raised questions:
Has what was designed as an instrument of quality assessment become an institution that risks stifling the excellence it was intended to foster?
I read yesterday that Warwick’s “Medical School and School of Life Sciences have been warned that the departments are under-performing financially” and that “bosses at the campus, in Gibbet Hill, Coventry, say if they have to cut staff they aim to find volunteers to leave their jobs in return for redundancy payments“. I then saw an earlier report in BBC suggesting that the situation was such at Warwickshire College. Were both institutions issuing job threats to instill uncertainty?
What caught my attention was the terminology used: bosses at the campus. I could think of other terms, more appropriate for those in positions of responsibility in a bank, a prison or a university…