Vanity management (1 of 2)

December 20, 2012

Queen Mary, University of London's promotional material hypes its success in the 2008 research assessment exercise against the sparkling backdrop of new buildings. Academic freedom in expensive "open interdisciplinary laboratories" is emphasised: unmentioned are the expensive but closed minds of managers limiting the people qualified to capitalise on what is otherwise futile investment.

In reward for years of good management and excellent research output, staff have been dismissed or forced to adhere to condescending and obstructive performance reviews. Students, whose tripled fees are paying the wages of the redundancy committee, look on aghast as metrics create a revolving door of temporary teaching staff with no personal investment in Queen Mary or its students.

Pandering to the research excellence framework by conjecturing about the prerequisites for league table success certainly makes for a brilliant vanity management project. This overzealous approach has undermined the real success of Queen Mary's academic staff (and with painful irony could reverse the progress made in recent years). If the restructuring and metrics fail to secure good REF results (and to a great extent even if they do), we will be left with a department on eternal probation that lacks morale and distrusts the leadership.

Valuable academics have resigned and will continue to resign as they leave for institutions where academics, students and peer-reviewed research are respected - institutions that foster true and dynamic scientific communities, integrated across disciplines, that aim to ensure the UK's competitiveness.

From my perspective as a first-year undergraduate, the aggressive restructuring has had a profoundly negative effect on my opinion of my university. This is shared by others and risks affecting the decisions of prospective undergraduates, graduates and staff as the shine wears off the buildings and the Russell Group bragging becomes boring.

Matthew James Erickson, Undergraduate in biology, Queen Mary, University of London

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