Monday, 19 January 2015

Horrible Work Organizations: Research Clientelism in Higher Education

On the run up to the Research Excellence Framework there was much busyness about who was going to do what, how it was presented, who was in, who was out - what researchers are research active, what staff are to be excluded etc etc ad nauseam et ad infinitum.  I attended only one meeting and my contribution was why beat ourselves up about this as even if the REF results in monies/research funds coming our way - managers may (and historically have) decided that the money goes elsewhere.

At Wretchington, a particularly obnoxious Knob was made Director of Research and the insider argument was that he was selected in the knowledge or hope that he would balls it up and thereby justify the institution's sacking or at least demoting of him. HalfArse Houlihan and he were close, shall we say.  And, I think that I am correct in saying that the Executive in charge of Research and Enterprise was himself registered for a Research Degree at a somewhat more prestigious institution - I am not sure if he has submitted his thesis yet. Interestingly, I believe that NONE of the directors of  Wretchington have a research degree.  Years ago he was described as being in the (institution's exit) waiting room. I saw him performing just the once at a meeting I attended as a non-executive director. He used the term 'shovel ready' to describe a project on which he was reporting. To be he was the Shit-Shovelling Shovel Ready Shit.

The School, later Faculty, that Behavioural Sciences was to be restructured into was that of Health and Well-Being another, terrible misnomer. Its leading research light has been quoted in the institutions brochure 'Research Excellence'as saying the following: 'The broad focus of each research theme means that it is easy to modify the range and the scope of the indicative content within our research focus, which allows us to respond quickly to changes in industry'.  What on earth does this mean and what, Dear Reader, is it doing in a University's research plan?  For me, this was the writing on the wall. No way could one develop as an independent researcher in an environment which espoused such values. OK, the penetration of industry into the research agendas of Universities has been with us since the Second World War (see Ravetz 1971 for example). But to work in an institution where other possible research scenarios were never explored was to work in a very restrictive and narrow environment. Research generally had to be applied, be capable of generating income, and was not likely to rock the boat.

Interestingly and reasssuring to note,  the University of Wretchington slipped down the league tables once the REF outcomes were made known. In common with the Chief Executives of many such institutions, Wretchington's Chief Executive was said to be delighted that 'world class' research was taking place at Wretchington (but not as much as he would like, no doubt).

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