A University Stands Up To Its Managers

Subject: A University Stands Up To Its Managers
From: Professor T J Simpson FRS
Date: 22 Jan 2015

The decision of King’s College London to reverse its daft adoption of a trendy new name, “Kings London”, is a welcome but regrettably rare example of university “management” being forced to realise that they had gone to far in their zeal for corporatism rather than education.
The real question was why and how the original stupid decision was taken in the first place, when it is clearly opposed by just about everyone in the university. Sadly, anyone who has worked in a university knows only too well how these decisions are taken.

Universities are now run as businesses, by isolated groups consisting of vice-chancellors and their pro-VC sidekicks and senior non-academic managers (usually ex-Tesco or NHS accountants and HR executives who have rarely set foot in an academic department), who have become totally distanced from the rest of the university, particularly the academic staff.

“Consultation” is something they do after whatever out-of-touch decision they have taken, and is then used as a rubber-stamp – usually by VCs who clamp down on any sensible debate in Senate. The decision is then taken for approval to gullible lay Councils or Courts who believe that everyone is in agreement as they have been “consulted” (but rarely listened to).

These university managers in the past were members of the academic staff, but now no longer see themselves as part of a continuum, but as corporate strategists. They have mostly lost sight of the basic academic functions of teaching, scholarship and research. Management has become for them an activity in its own right, with little regard for what they are actually managing.

So well done the staff and students of KCL. If only more of us had the will to stand up to these self-opinionated berks.

Professor T J Simpson FRS