A university union rep unhappy with their university’s spending?

University union rep

I think it’s traditional to mock corporate rebrands and be appalled at the sums of money involved swapping one little logo for another little logo, but the timing of this one could have been better.

University of Portsmouth under fire over £800,000 rebrand costs as departments face cuts
Dr James Hicks, city university branch secretary of the University and College union, said: ‘I don’t understand why they would spend so much money on a logo and shortly after that say we’re having difficulties and might need to make savings. ‘You would assume they would have thought this through and it would be a little more joined up.’

I wouldn’t like to comment on the levels of marketing and recruitment expertise the UCU rep has – obviously it’s not £800,000 on just a logo – but after yesterday’s post about strike action, and the attention currently on VC pay, this could have been managed better.

Times Higher Education v-c pay survey 2018
Times Higher Education’s survey of vice-chancellors’ pay in the most recently reported financial year, 2016-17, reveals that Snowden’s total remuneration rose to £433,000 in 2016-17, while that of Breakwell – who announced last November that she would retire at the end of the current academic year – reached £471,000, a rise of 4.4 per cent. But even that salary looked paltry compared with the headline-grabbing £808,000 earned by Christina Slade of neighbouring Bath Spa University, a figure that – as THE revealed in December – included a £429,000 pay-off for “loss of office”.

Bath University vice-chancellor quits after outcry over £468k pay
“Professor Breakwell will receive more than £600,000 from the university, an enormous reward for failure, and will continue to exercise the authority which has generated the ‘climate of fear’ now openly talked-of on campus,” a joint statement from the campus unions UCU, Unite and Unison, said.


Ana Dinerstein, a member of the senate who last week voted no-confidence in Breakwell, said: “This is great opportunity for change that will start at Bath University and can spread throughout the sector. It can be a turning point.”

Or not.


The 2014 Grant letter: another epistolary triumph

"But enough of the content, what about the important stuff like length? At 22 paragraphs, excluding the covering letter, or 26 if you include the substantive comments in the letter, it is shorter than any of its three predecessors from the BIS duo which have come in at 36, 35 and 28 paragraphs long. It is pleasing though that the Secretary of State’s signature remains as cheerful as ever."


I’m not so directly involved with this side of university business these days, but this is a great summary. And the Twitter stuff’s been good too.

Reducing burden, or just moving it about a bit?


Something that’s not going to affect many people out there in the real world, but still, a step in the right direction:

Trac burden cut after Hefce review

Universities are to benefit from a reduced administrative burden in supplying information about their costs, but government pressure to give more of such data to students has met with a cool response. (timeshighereducation.co.uk)

Having said that, for me that administrative burden is coming from a different direction. For instance this, thankfully not from my place…

Thousands of Winchester students lose out on loan money

Nearly 2,000 Winchester students have each lost out on £400 of student loan funding due to an admin blunder. (hampshirechronicle.co.uk)

'Audit Culture'? Sure about that?

This Times Higher Education article annoyed me this morning:

No plaudits for ‘audit culture’

Academics in the UK have to devote themselves to “gaming the system and distorting their output” because of the “elaborate audit culture” that has developed around higher education.

That is one of the opinions put forward in A Manifesto for the Public University, a new collection of essays by campaigning academics in opposition to the coalition’s university reforms.

Writing in the book, published next month, Michael Burawoy, a British professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, argues that the sector has been the victim of bureaucratic attempts to simulate market competition.

This regulation is now being deployed to teaching as well as research, he argues. Together with “commodification”, universities are facing twin pressures that are “destroying the very basis of (their) own precarious autonomy”.

Professor Burawoy’s essay is one of seven in the book, edited by John Holmwood, one of the academics behind the Campaign for the Public University, which has launched an alternative to the higher education White Paper.

And so on and so forth 

What annoyed me about it was the lazy way it was using terms like audit and bureaucratic when describing the position we’re in. The usual baddies. Strikes me we’re only where we are because of politics, not bureaucracy. It’s not too much audit that started messing with our funding positions and set us off down this track to the market. If anything, we’ve either not got enough audit or have too much of the wrong kind.

There’s lots wrong with where we are now, but if we just go back over the whole ‘academic v administrative’ themes, as THE is wont to do, then heaven help us.

How others see all this

The view of UK tuition fees from the rest of the world
Yet by abolishing public subsidies in the humanities and social sciences, the government expects private graduates to finance the public goods themselves – goods that manifestly benefit employers and society. As the Americans say, “go figure”.

E-Learning to save the day?

How Big Can E-Learning Get? At Southern New Hampshire U., Very Big
Academe is abuzz with talk of “disruptive innovation”—the idea, described by Harvard’s Clayton M. Christensen, that the prestige-chasing, tuition-raising business model of higher education is broken, and that something new and cheaper, rooted in online learning, promises to displace it.