Saturday, 21 June 2008

Blonde ambitions

The recent league tables hitch of Kingston University has made the round of the national news. I cannot understand why. Just practical things, a VC would say. From a point of view of a marketing manager in the Universities UK PLC, it would be ridiculous to provide evidence of such collusions between students, lecturers, senior management of the university up to the government. It is something that is intended to be there already: an intricate network of interests bum-to-bum as nobody knew anything about it. By the way: do we still have British prime ministers eating beans for breakfast?

The problem is just an hitch, from the business point-of-view of senior management. The VC of Kingston has made it clear: Sir Peter Scott has said that it was just an isolated incident. And what else should we expect, if not such answers from senior management. The thing is however, more peculiar to the university system itself. And it looks as if this is not confined to Kingston University, but it is a more widespread practice that has surfaced unexpectedly like organic matter in the sea whilst bathing. Do you get the point? A good signal against all the ideas that students can be rewarded with good jobs.

What? Just for a twist of arm to some students? In reality it is more than a simple twist. I may even sound sarcastic but the tape of such evidence recorded by some students did not attract me. I am just intrigued by how much the system is really corrupted to the point that my fantasy realises just that: an hidden world surfacing to what seems to us to be only fantasy. Such things are not isolated to Kingston University. And it would be childish to believe that such things happen only in Kingston University. It would reduce itself to only a media frenzy. The thing is much more widespread because it is real and it really exists.

Having myself been through the process, I know how degrading and frustrating it can be to blackmail students on their views of their courses. I really simply refused to bombard them with questionnaires * which could be used against them or traded for a better position *. A dose of animal instinct or a big nose is needed for business like that.

Kingston is well known for its too simplistic approach to students and staff well-being. The government knows that very well, but it looks as though the interests now are over other things. Kingston senior management is perhaps now more aware that they are running a University. They must have forgotten in the meantime that they were called to enact such role amongst other things and within all the business that the government and various leadership associations must have asked them to perform throughout the time.

And with Kingston also the elite caste of the media and all the associations which take people to be mad or irrational when such admissions are made in public with names and surnames.

Who knows why some become our enemies after such admissions?. Others prefer to stay away, silent and possibly messing about in class hoping that the students will sooner or later fill out a questionnaire which can discredit the victims. Others must struggle and put all the evidence together to be readmitted within the reign of the rational and to be in peace with themselves once again.

I am not new to this. Having seen it and experienced it, all I can say is that, such things are not different in other institutions.

The events linked to the exploitation of league tables are certainly very far from mainstream union activities and interests which nobody has up to know cited and highlighted. The National Student Survey has been up to now a tool of control and we knew it as such. UCU (University and college Union) as well as various associations for Academic Freedom have not paid attention to the fact that such time bombs where going to hit them back: the students cannot give credit to their own unions or have lecturers supporting them in not being pressurized, let alone the intervention or just an admission of this sort of associations for the freedom of academics which are nothing more than ridiculous spawns of UCU (University and college Unions).

I wrote a piece "Tradesman show" criticising such use and abuse of league tables at national and international level and clearly calling for a total abolition.

The British university system has got its own way to manage discrepancies which surface every single time a new article hits the pages of the Times Higher Education and spreads then virulently on the net and other newsfeeds.

The matter of control of students and lecturers from the elite caste of the media and senior management in the universities, becomes much more comprehensive if we start debating the discrepancies arising from universities' open days events. During such events students are alienated and courses sold to them by lecturers who are ‘invited’ by their heads of department to ‘present their courses’, otherwise they will not survive, either in the department as member of staff, or within the subject area they teach. In all this big show, students are literally manipulated and told false information with regard to the possibilities that such courses at that particular institution can give them: such information varies from inflated employment rates to possibilities and unrealistic figures of accreditations and credit transfer. All is targeted at creating an ideal environment: from the hospitality to the preparation of physical environments where students must be exercised to get a feeling of what the University is.

Once at Wolverhampton University I suggested to wear (myself) a blonde wig to the marketing artistic director Michelle Palmer in the School of Computing. I was hoping to be more attractive to the students. I had fear of not being a really credible liar.

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