Several people have asked me to write something about the situation at King’s College London. And indeed, it may seem strange that I haven’t so far joined in what has become one of the most widespread campaigns I have seen in my short span as a medievalist blogger. The cause of this alarm and outrage is that KCL is proposing to axe, among other staff to whom we’ll come in a moment, the English-speaking world’s only Chair of Palæography, that is, the study of ancient writing, the discipline which underlies any work done with manuscripts from a time before typescript (and after, where Gothic Black Letter is concerned, I might add). It is pretty important. Without training in palæography the original sources of this period basically become inaccessible, and work on OCR of such texts and so on has only increased this importance in recent years. And the incumbent Professor, David Ganz, has been a stalwart in the rôle as it was envisioned, giving advice to all and sundry (including me), whether they were at KCL or not, involving himself in new media projects and digital technology and also, publishing like a mad thing. By any normal UK academic assessment, based on research output and even this new and nebulous quality ‘impact’, David should be a shoo-in. But KCL are not assessing on this basis: they are severely short of income, and are assessing on the basis of the revenue the post brings in, in terms of research students, grants and class sizes. And in those terms, David’s post is one of many under serious threat.
The first thing that has spelled me from writing, apart from incredible busyness, is that I didn’t think I had anything to add to the immense coverage already out there. (I’ve tried to collect this at the end: so far I know of seventeen posts but I expect there are more.) There is a Facebook group; there is an online petition. Many letters have been written (and I made sure mine was in the post before publishing this). What am I going to add to all that? Secondly, it’s a bit awkward, because not only is David a friend and confidant (to whom indeed I currently owe a pint), there are other people I know well under threat in this situation, and it may be that not all of them can be saved. It’s also awkward because I used to work, briefly, at KCL’s Department of History, who were really nice to me, and so if I critique their decisions I am turning ungratefully on a former employer. (In what follows I am clinging to the idea that though the Department of History hired me, the decisions at issue here have all been taken at a much higher level. I hope History Department members and indeed future employers will bear that in mind if they read this.)
But the situation is very bad, and I can maybe reach places that don’t usually hear about such things, at least, such things in the medieval sphere, but where, alas, matters like this are sadly familiar. I’m not going to try and explain how important palæography is: others have done that already and better than I will, not least Mary Beard who commands a far wider audience. The subject is, after all, important enough that it is taught in many other places and although I respect his work immensely and have been keen to enlist his help when I have needed it, I was never a student of Professor Ganz’s. This is, in part, the problem he faces: the way he has filled this post very much fits the original vision in which it was created, as a help to the classicists, medievalists and even early modernists worldwide. His own students are a tiny fraction of his impact, but they are the only fraction that KCL now wishes to measure. It’s only KCL’s changing the rules like this that could ever have led to the suggestion that his post is of marginal importance. So, what’s behind the KCL rule change is what I’m talking about here.
The huge effort on the Internet is already reaching the stage of self-congratulation, which is dangerous: we haven’t achieved anything yet. More cynical voices are arguing that Facebook is all very well, and as David himself has observed it would be rather nice if the newest technology of communication came to the rescue of one of the oldest, but really what the people in charge will be watching is old-fashioned letters. One of the first things I wanted to find out, indeed, was who the people in charge were, to ask how come palæography had been selected first, what the timetable was for the other posts under threat and who’d decided who went first, who chooses who stays and whether (call me a cynic) there are any administrative job cuts planned. I rang the Head of Division in KCL Human Resources who deals with Humanities repeatedly over three working days, but never got through to more than her answering machine. However, the pressure of questions that I assume KCL have also been receiving from others has paid off in some way, because they have put the original internal document about the process online, and in order to make sure it stays that way I have grabbed a copy and it is up here. And from this we get some of the answers and realise that, oh lor’, it’s far worse than we thought.
KCL’s School of Arts and Humanities is forecasting a loss this year of 2·9 million pounds sterling. In part this has arisen because of government cuts of funding, and this is the main target of blame, although the UK government insists that it is only cutting five per cent of funds and that this is a saving any institution ought to be able to make. (Lord Mandelson’s five per cent figure is easily disproved, however: firstly, HEFCE’s own sums make it over six,** and secondly cuts had already been announced in November that amounted to a 4-5% cut by 2012, to which this is additional.)
Rumours and hearsay from elsewhere however suggest that this is only part of the problem: KCL’s School of Arts and Humanities was already shorter of money than it had been expecting, because it did less well than in previous years in the government’s Research Assessment Exercise and the National Student Satisfaction survey but had apparently budgeted on the assumption that it would do as well. To add to this, of course, the global financial situation is pretty bad, and I guess KCL’s endowment has been hit. Because it’s not just Arts and Humanities: KCL as a whole is looking to shed a full ten per cent of staff in ALL areas, admin. included. The rôle of the government in this is of course awful: one might expect a government of a country in economic trouble and with horribly rising unemployment to invest in education and talent creation, especially a government which is still somehow holding onto a pledge to send half the population to university, but instead it is cutting so much money that 300,000 university applicants this year are likely to be denied a place. But the government cuts are only part of a larger story: KCL seems to have budgeted and invested poorly and is now reaping the harvest in an act of incredible self-harm that must cripple their ability to attract students, administrators or faculty (though in the middle of this, while not even knowing who remains on staff to work with incomers, they are still hiring…)
In this kind of scenario what’s being handed down to Arts and Humanities is only part of a more general Terror, but it is a worse part of it. They are aiming overall to lose 22 posts, which is a lot more than ten per cent. This is after cutting costs by £550,000 in the Centre for Computing in the Humanities, one of KCL’s most forward-looking sections. They also anticipate saving a similar amount by not replacing retiring staff or replacing them at junior level. But that leaves a million to find. And so out come the knives. I quote, to avoid imposing my own priorities:
The following activities would be restructured, with 11 fte academic staff at risk:
1. The Department of American Studies would close. One member of staff has successfully applied to the VLS, three further posts will become at risk of redundancy upon the termination of the BA degree in 2012. It may be possible for two members of staff to be relocated to the Department of English to offer courses in American and Comparative Literature, in particular on transnational literatures
and cultural exchange, and on visual culture and modern cultural studies. Of these two, one post is essential to the process of restructuring and will be saved. The other post would be deployed in the English department, to respond to a need for teaching and research in visual culture and modern cultural studies. At risk: 3
2. Linguistics would cease as a distinct activity at the School, although the MLC will continue to offer courses to the MA in Language and Cultural Diversity, which it organizes at an administrative level for the Centre for Language, Discourse and Communication. Beyond this Linguistics would cease as a distinct activity in the School of Arts and Humanities. Four posts in German, Spanish, and BMGS [Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies–ed.] would be at risk of redundancy. Three members of staff would be made redundant by 31 August 2010 if no suitable alternative employment could be found and one member of staff, assessed on the need for continuing PhD supervision, would be made redundant on 31 August 2011 if there was no suitable alternative. At risk: 4 posts.
3. Paleography would cease as a distinct activity. At risk: 1 post by 31 August 2010.
4. Computational Linguistics would cease as an activity in the School. At risk: 2 posts in the Department of Philosophy by 31 August 2010.
5. Within the Department of Classics, there is excess capacity in Classical Archaeology and Art. It is proposed that this group of staff is reduced from currently four academics to three. At risk: 1 post by 31 August 2010, chosen on the basis of performance.
Beyond the restructuring identified above, 11fte academic positions will no longer be viable if the desired target savings as part of the restructuring programme of £1.52m are to be achieved. The need to reach this financial goal means that there will be a diminishment of need in the overall numbers of academic staff required within the
School as a whole.
That last bit is the most ominous of all, to me, but I’m sure you found your own horrors in there. And how is all this going to be achieved?
It is proposed that all academic roles within the School of Arts & Humanities (but excluding the MLC and CCH) will be declared at risk of redundancy. Selection of those roles which will be redundant will be done through an assessment based on the performance of each role holder. Each member of staff at risk would be required to submit a summary of their performance using a standard format. The areas which would be assessed are:
• Research excellence and fit including:
• Contribution to the research output of the department and
• Publication record
• Confirmed future outputs leading to the REF;
• Research Income;
• Esteem indicators;
• Research “fit”;
• 500 word research statement.
• Teaching contribution and fit and a demonstration of excellence in student recruitment that is significantly above national average. For all students, teaching need will be assessed through:
• Number of contact hours taught, with contact hours defined as total number of hours per year of BA and MA classroom teaching in
2008-9 and 2009-10. This will also be taken as evidence of
‘teaching fit’ in the department and in the School.
• Number of BA/MA/PhD students taught
• Evidence of Student Satisfaction (including PhD completion rates)
• Administrative Leadership. Staff will be evaluated less on ‘standard’
departmental administrative duties, which are expected to be undertaken by every member of staff on an equitable basis, but more on strategic initiative and drive, notably the setting up of new courses, collaborative alliances, international links, etc.
So that’s the new régime. Publish or perish? No: earn or die. And they have ‘fit’, twice, to allow them to make subjective decisions about the direction of KCL’s future arts and humanities impact. How would you like this to be the way your institution was thinking, and are you sure they’re not? It’s not beyond hope, at least:
These projections are proposals and therefore subject to consultation through the formal process.
That process, the document makes clear, ends on 27th April, although by then those ‘at risk’ will already have had their appeal hearings so I don’t know what effect the powers that be envisage the consultation having: none, it would seem. But at least there there is room for a voice. And whether you hope that a picture is as good as a thousand words to save Palæography, or whether you might be be more inclined to shout for American Studies or the philosophers who are protesting their dismissal, I urge you to get in there and make that voice heard. I myself have written for David, as I say, but not without misgivings, because I’m conscious of two contemporaries of mine recently hired in this School who may be subject to LIFO decisions because of not yet having had time to gather research students or publish shelves of research, and as another colleague said to me, “if we save David, who are we kicking out of a job?” This is just horrible, there’s nothing good about any of it and there are far too many people involved whom one might have hoped would use their positions of power better in the interest of knowledge and learning than what we’re seeing.
Coverage, alphabetically by website or blog:
- Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, the blog of the Cambridge University Department of the same name
- Dianne’s Medieval Writing by Dianne Tilllotson
- A Don’s Life by Mary Beard at Cambridge University
- The Faster Times, article by Ken Mondschein
- Glossographia by Stephen Chrisomalis at Wayne State University
- The Heroic Age blog†
- In The Medieval Middle, post by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen at George Washington University, followed up with this one
- Magistra et mater by a self-identified alumna of KCL
- Medieval History Geek by Curt Emanuel
- Modern Medieval, post by Larry Swain†
- News for Medievalists has two posts, one about the threat to the Chair of Palæography and one covering the campaigns to save it and KCL’s statements in reaction; the former includes a short Q&A with Professor Ganz
- On Boundaries
- The Ruminate†
- Thoughts of a Knowledge Geek by Doug Moncur
- Unlocked Wordhoard by Richard Nokes of Troy University, with an inspired addendum here
* I should say that when I taught there, a department of some forty academics and gods know how many students—their website is unforthcoming on this front—was being administrated by a full two people, although audio-visual stuff was done centrally and the academic staff took a far larger chunk of admin. than some do elsewhere. It helped that the staff were brilliant, but the place I currently teach does the same job, in a slightly smaller department, with six people and still struggles. There was no more fat to trim here, at least.
** The actual figures are rather difficult to calculate, and the individual institutional grants being handed out are not yet public. Also, 2010-2011 was always going to be bad anyway because £250m of its budget was brought forward to spend in 2008-09 and 2009-10, but: in terms of raw outgoings year by year it is down to £7,291m from £7,809m, which I reckon as a reduction of 6·64% not taking inflation or deflation into account. Most of this is coming out of capital funds; research is actually up, HEFCE claim, in real terms, though teaching is very slightly down despite more actual cash allocated.
† It’s only fair to admit that these posts were all put up by the same person and replicate each other.
As I said on a Facebook thread a while back, the dismal even catastrophic hiring situation for new people looks almost like yesterday’s news in the face of things like this. And I am sure that there is a lot of this happening one way or another, especially in American states with huge budget deficits and constitutional prohibitions on running them.
There’s been a lot of that noised at Cliopatria, where two of the authors are at UC Davis. It makes for equally depressing reading, but in a different way, because there the cuts are solely academic. I don’t know how it’s got there but KCL is clearly in worse shape than that.
Thanks for that. It’s about time that people began to focus more on the root of the problem, which has to do with policy-making at the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills rather than decision-making at KCL. Mandelson’s thoughts on the way forward for academia in the UK (http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/feb/11/academics-in-aspic-says-mandelson), channelled with reference to the KCL situation by the General Director of the Institute of Directors in a recent interview on Radio 4’s Today Programme (http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8507000/8507850.stm), should be deeply disturbing to anybody who believes that the humanities as we now know them should have a central place in tertiary education in this country. How many lecturers in humanities subjects can genuinely claim to deal in the kind of ‘strategic skills’ that Mandelson thinks academics should primarily be purveying? The reasoning that licenses strategic disinvestment in palaeography at KCL might equally apply to almost any single position in the humanities in the UK. The threat is far greater than the desperately sad loss of Ganz’s chair. It may well be that what’s really needed now is a solid defence of the humanities. The argument for the importance of a sustaining and diverse academic culture in the humanities is simply not being made: not by academics, and not by the journalists and politicians who benefited from their own university experience. Many people seem to believe that the best thing is to keep calm and carry on, but it’s no good for anyone if the utilitarian position of Mandelson et al. is met by silence when so much is at stake. There are other contexts internationally where the kind of position espoused by the Secretary of State has long been embraced and where scholarship in the humanities now seems to rely on abject special pleading in order to persist (http://www.dc.ocha.ac.jp/comparative-cultures/m_greeting_e.html). It would be nice if we didn’t let ourselves go down that path.
By the way, the idea that the chair of palaeography at KCL is the only such position in the English-speaking world is widely repeated, but I imagine it grates on the ears of Michele Mulchahey, first incumbent (since 2007) of the Leonard E. Boyle Chair in Manuscript Studies at the Pontifical Insitute for Medieval Studies (http://www.pims.ca/academics/boyle.html).
And for the record, another medieval blog dealing with the situation at Kings is Nugatorius scriptor (http://scribalculture.org/weblog/).
I agree that the government policy is piling worse on top of already bad, but KCL are cutting back by far more than even the true state of the government cuts. The government is cutting ten per cent of part of their funding. The response is far out of proportion. Something else must be badly wrong…
Or, horrible thought, this could be a negotiating position. But the PR effect is so devastating that surely no-one would open these negotiations willingly.
Yes but the cuts aren’t the only governmental forcing here, as you note: whatever other difficulties there may be in KCL, concern about the REF must partly underlie what’s going on in the process of restructuring and strategic disinvestment. This would also seem to explain the recent redefinition of history at Sussex, which now appears to have begun in Britain in 1700 (or 1900 in the benighted Rest of the World). The cuts and the advent of social and economic impact assessments are a hell of a combination. Despite all the suggestions of financial difficulties in KCL Arts and Humanities, it’ll be interesting to see if they finally end up making a stack of new appointments just in time for the REF census, within the new research frameworks they’re defining for themselves.
Sussex has been in a state for a while. I used to go out with someone who lived in Brighton and consequently I noticed when they cut their medieval provision, and that was in 2003 or so. Their archaeology staggered on a little while with an ancient component and then a gap until early modern. I presume that the ancient went not long after, and as of midway through last year they had cut archæology entirely. So whatever they’ve done to history has been part of a long and unpleasant transformation towards a solely modern and text-based history I’m afraid.
Your point about the REF is a good one, meanwhile, of course, but it hasn’t stopped other places appointing new people, and as I say, in terms of impact, which seems to be its new word, David’s use of his post is pretty well qualified. The letters they must be getting will help prove that much at least. (We should really have been sending copies to David too, shouldn’t we?)
The Leiter Reports blog, which is a significant philosophy blog has been posting a lot on this, because the computational linguistics people that KCL are planning to fire are also world-renowned. They currently have a particularly scathing post up about Jan Palmowski the Head of the School of Humanities.
Indeed, linked in the last paragraph, at least one of their posts (but not the Palmowski post, which is, er, alarming).
The Palmowski post has disappeared, to be replaced by a new piece, still more illuminating, but probably less likely to bring on a lawsuit:
Magistra’s revelations about Engineering below do make a nonsense of the money motive, too, so I’m beginning to incline to the philosophers’ point of view here, that someone is using financial exigency as a poor cover to rebuild KCL’s academic structure to be more fashionable and exciting. Otherwise why would you close a department making a £2m profit? In which case: the letters may yet help by convincing the people concerned that it looks really silly and no-one is excited but them.
You’re right. It is worse than I thought.
… And I wish I could say it was isolated, but it all sounds eerily familiar to those of us acquainted with the Australian scenario, where, in recent memory, the University of Melbourne (while touting itself as a preeminent institution of international repute… without even so much as a hint of irony) effectively castrated its History department and tried to sack its remaining medieval historian. As in the Sussex example, above, the powers that be appear to have decided that the paying public just isn’t that into anything before Captain James Cook. It is rumoured that the relevant position was saved by sharp-shooting employment lawyers, rather than the accompanying deluge of angry letters, both private and in the national press: the University administration has long since proven itself immune to such outpourings of public/academic disgust. It might even have been counterproductive given the attitude of the administrators towards humanities ‘sympathisers’! Apparently we all simply don’t ‘get’ it, and those of us who get quite emotionally worked up about the issues are simply being unreasonable and/or rude. This could be because ‘reason’ is so effectively submerged in the management-speak of documents like the KCL one that their arguments can actually become impossible to rebuff. Viz: “there will be a diminishment of need in the overall numbers of academic staff required…”!?!?!?!? Come on, just say ‘we are going to fire a few people whether you like it or not’ like you mean it! At least that would be honest.
Of major concern to me is the spectre of the future of these institutions, when ‘we’ (a.k.a. Society) collectively wake up from this nightmare and decide we want to fill the gaping holes in humanities expertise that will have been created. Where will these ‘experts’ come from then? How long will it take to rebuild shattered academic standards, not to say institutional reputations? And how, in the mean time, will the discipline as a whole move forward, be innovative, and attract students (and cash) on a skeleton staff with bottomed-out morale?!
It is one of the good things that one can say about the archaic Oxbridge model of conciliar self-government that there is at least some structure that can resist moves like these. It takes a lot of mobilisation but something like this in Oxford of Cambridge would have to pass through the Regent House or whatever Oxford calls its equivalent, and though raising the non placet vote is tricky, for something like this people would come out. I wish London’s rather disconnected colleges had left themselves even some equally last-ditch way to prevent the administrators having this ability to decide what shall and shan’t be taught. That’s what’s most wrong about the situation you describe.
I would add, though, that it’s also mistaken to blame this sort of thing on ‘administrators’ – university managers are often academics, and in the case of the Principal of KCL, a historian. This is actually one of the more disturbing things about it – Mandelson speaks, and suddenly we all start cutting each others’ throats.
Yes, I was commenting on the Melbourne situation there. As I hope I’ve made clear in the main article, KCL’s support staff also appear to be on the chopping block (which is worrying given how few and how good the ones I’ve met are).
But, yes, one of the (many) things that gives me to despair in this is that a historian presumably knows that Arts and Humanities are important, or at least personally worthwhile. Of course despair is one of my favourite states anyway but I think this episode is justified. Again as I say, the people we’d expect to be on our side aren’t…
I do wish (all love and appreciation for David Ganz aside) that people would focus not on writing a letter for David, but on writing a letter for Palaeography. I don’t mean that in as harsh a way as it sounds, but much of the response seems to include a, “and David is such a stellar guy,” comment. I think this is a crucial error: it’s the kind of thing the bean counters will pick up on. The field and the position are important and justified no matter who holds the Chair. We need them. Many other fields of study, and many scholars, depend on what the Chair, whoever holds it, provides.
But thanks for the reminder to get my letter in the mail!
I think the reason that people have been concentrating on David specifically rather than the Chair in general, is that it’s harder to make a case for why KCL ought to have a Chair of Palaeography, than why they ought to keep David. No individual university needs to have a chair of palaeography in order to have a good reputation in medieval studies, as shown by the fact that it’s one of the few existing chairs in the subject. Even if the cut goes ahead, KCL will find a way to get by teaching palaeography in a minimal way: either done by their own members of staff or by ‘buying’ in teaching from elsewhere in London.
I don’t think KCL are therefore going to pay any attention to general ‘barbarian at the gate’ type arguments that if they don’t keep palaeography going civilization will crumble (even if that is true). So the argument that KCL should have a chair is essentially about it maintaining its own academic reputation worldwide. And you can’t separate the academic reputation of the chair from its occupant: if, by some complete anomaly, KCL decided to keep the chair but give it to Dan Brown (after all, he’s very interested in peculiar medieval writing and he might come cheap) the reputation hit would be enormous.
One of the reasons KCL is successful is because someone like David is there, even if that can’t easily be measured in the kind of statistics they’re using. That’s why the letter campaign is particularly important. I pointed out in my letter that when I applied successfully for PhD funding to the AHRB, I mentioned David as one of the reasons for choosing KCL, even though he wasn’t my supervisor. If you look at Jinty Nelson’s footnotes or listen to her talks, you’ll see how often she refers to suggestions made by David. There are a whole lot of ways in which he’s boosted the profile and academic standing of KCL that aren’t reflected either in his official role as holder of a chair or in simple statistics about students supervised, money brought in etc.
Everyone who has held this chair has been “stellar” in every possible sense. Except the Hollywoodian one.
This is it. Although David’s research is important, it isn’t really enabled by his Chair, and palæography is taught in many other places. The point is more in what David and the previous chairs have made of the post as a flagship for the subject and a resource for all who need advice or help. And that is down to him.
Also, quite frankly, I would rather they found David a job and kept him on staff than that (though I can’t see this happening) they kept the Chair and appointed someone else when they could afford it.
magistra — good point. I hadn’t thought of it in that way. One of the things that does amaze me about this is that the argument is that no one cares about or needs something so esoteric, when palaeography and epigraphy hold prominent spots in a lot of pop-culture. OF course, one of the problems is that knowing the actual languages is not all that easy!
Is that the argument? I think the argument is much more brutally financial: the subject and David himself haven’t generated enough income. Though the fact that his is a chair by itself shared between
HistoryEnglish and Classics must stick out like a sore thumb to any would-be reorganiser, and it seems clear from the Consultation document that whoever is in charge of this process is all about shiny reorganisation and rather less about utility and recognition value.
I’d add that KCL has form on this kind of panicky reorganisation and cutting and and not just in the humanities or under the current management. They did the same thing back in 2003 to the Chemistry department and they’re also now planning to close the Engineering department, while opening a shiny new department of Biomedical Engineering.
I’ve just posted something about university strategies in more general terms, trying to look at why so many universities are getting into this kind of mess.
They’re planning to close Engineering!? But surely that’s like the one bit the government would continue to fund with its current priorities. What’s the problem, just, “Oh, it’s no good we’ll never be Sheffield”? Because according to that link you include, the Department was actually in profit by nearly enough to save Arts and Humanities total last year! How does this fit with any of the rest of their plans? I no longer understand.
For one recent perspective on ‘how Universities are getting into this mess’: http://www.theage.com.au/opinion/politics/knowledge-economy-at-what-cost-20100214-nzdl.html
I would tend to agree that a focus on ranking and tables is unhelpful, but I’m not sure what his alternative is. His case seems to be that people shouldn’t have to pay for education. OK, so where’s the money coming from? And so on.
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One of the big problems is that it makes short-term sense for KCL (and other universities) to cut courses, if you look at it purely in cost centre terms. Engineering is just one among a number of ‘traditional’ subjects (others include physics and languages) which has relatively high unit costs and where the number of undergraduate students is in overall decline in the UK. Given it’s hard to make much, if any money on any undergraduate courses, it makes financial sense for individual universities to cut any such departments which don’t reliably bring in much research funding (which means increasingly, ones not in the top 5 or so in the country).
KCL just seems to be taking this to its logical (or illogical) conclusion. If you look at its research profile from RAE 2008, it is already, in research terms, a biomedical institute with a university attached – it has more researchers in health and biology than in all the other subjects combined. If it continues on this strategy, in 20 years time it’s going to be a biomedical institute with a token ragbag of non-medical subjects tagged on: my current guess for survivors is History, War Studies, Classics, Politics, Law and Philosophy.
Wow, history really didn’t do as well as it had expected huh? But although I see your point about its focus, the link you gave to the Engineering dept. has them claiming that, far from being a drain on costs, they actually generate nearly as much revenue for their School as the entirety of the projected A&H deficit! So I don’t see a financial case for cutting them at all! The ‘greater vision’ argument is the only I can still see holding water now, and it’s objectionable.
I think the KCL management are working on the basis of another popular (and simplistic) business tool: the BCG matrix. In that kind of analysis, engineering is a ‘dog’, since KCL has low market share in a declining market. Therefore, even if they’re still making money from the ‘product’, in business terms they would be better off getting rid of it and finding a subject where the market is growing. Which is why KCL are creating a new lectureship in Chinese Entrepreneurship, which is buzzy and exciting and will make KCL squillions of pounds (perhaps).
Or, of course, it may turn out to be an expensive failure, as some of KCL’s other projects have been. If you explore the RAE submissions, for example, it shows that American Studies was only constituted as a department in 2000, first entered for the RAE in 2008, and has already been closed down. The simple fact is that, like most academics, KCL managers are not very good at predicting future markets. Which is why a different strategy might make sense.
If you continue the BCG categorization, meanwhile, history is probably a ‘cash cow’ and will survive, even though it did badly this time in the RAE. It’s also interesting to note that the big biomedical groups at KCL are actually not that impressive in terms of RAE rankings, but presumably there’s so much medical funding they can still pull in money. If you go by RAE performance, the biggest travesty is that philosophy has been targetted for cuts, especially since philosophy is reputedly the cheapest subject going to teach.
I can’t help beginning to feel that your future career may lie in business analysis, Magistra… As ever you look to be on the mark with this, although it does of course assume that the philosophers are wrong and it’s not just being done by hack-and-slash buzzword caprice.
As a country we produce very little and import a great deal. The government prints money and borrows and borrows. The pound collapses (the worst is yet to come). Inflation is inevitable and the only way the government, who borrow in �s,can meet its debt repayments is for that to continue. Simple really and the only surprise, as previously mentioned by Bill Young, is that to some people it is a surprise.
Given that inflation has been at a standstill for most of the last eighteen months, or actually in recession, I’d have to say your analysis needs refining.
One could take an alternative perspective indeed, and say: until the bank crash of last year, had there ever been more people employed in the higher-education humanities worldwide? Perhaps in the legendary glory days of the 1970s, but there are far more universities now than there were then. So I think our perspectives may in fact be quite short-term, but that of course makes it worse because a large system over-produces in greater numbers than a small one. So the success of the university model until recently only means that now there are more people with no jobs to go to. That’s got nothing to do with inflation and not even much to do with the government, and what it has to do with the government is certainly not to do with it spending less on HE, until very recently.
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