When the merger of University College Falmouth and Dartington College of Arts was announced in 2008, there was huge excitement at the opportunity this presented to create a truly great arts university in Cornwall, covering the full spectrum of fine art, design, contemporary crafts, media, performance arts and writing.
Since then the institution has gained university status and developed in all kinds of ways, many of them extremely positive. The hard work and dedication of teaching and support staff have helped achieve high levels of student satisfaction. Falmouth alumni are thriving in a wide range of creative fields.
However, very many staff at the university feel that these successes have been achieved despite the way the university has been led rather than because of it. Constant and often poorly planned restructuring has now continued for nearly ten years and has led to continuing uncertainty, confusion and very high levels of stress among staff in every department and at every level. Pressure on staff to raise student numbers at all costs has raised real concerns over what this will do to the quality of courses.
The university’s inadequately planned growth has also sparked protests in the local community, alarmed by the impact on the availability of housing for local people and on the quality of life in Falmouth and Penryn.
Senior staff who have expressed doubts about the wisdom of executive decisions have left, or been forced to leave, in circumstances that can only be described as murky (‘gagging’ clauses have been used to prevent them from discussing these). This has led to key positions being unfilled for considerable periods, causing yet more stress and dysfunction.
There is a strong perception among staff that many important decisions affecting the university’s future are being taken by a very small group of people at executive level without adequate consultation, consideration or even understanding of the likely consequences. A style of management has developed, set from the top, that appears to value machismo and ‘risk taking’ above all else, except perhaps financial gain.
This management style has engendered a pervasive atmosphere of fear and insecurity, with many staff feeling unable to raise questions or concerns without putting their positions in immediate danger.
The suspension and subsequent closure of several successful courses has been announced without adequate consultation among either staff or students. We all understand that changes sometimes need to be made in the portfolio of courses, but the inept and insensitive way in which this has occurred has led to widespread consternation among staff, students, prospective students and alumni, as have the opaque and unconvincing rationales offered for these decisions.
In a 2009 report into extremely serious problems that threatened the future of London Metroplitan University, Sir David Melville identified a particular type of management culture as having been at the root of these:
“… a highly centralised and dictatorial Executive led by the Vice-Chancellor, which was incapable of listening to what was going on in the university, discouraged or ignored criticism and made decisions without consultation.
“This total lack of collegiality is seen as having a dispiriting and demotivating effect on staff.”
Many staff have noted the development of a strikingly similar management culture at Falmouth University, also very much centred on its Vice Chancellor. Yet the atmosphere of fear that currently prevails within the institution has made it increasingly hard for them to speak out about this openly, or to use internal channels to voice their concerns.
That is why this site has been set up. If you have serious concerns about the executive management of the university, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, explaining how these problems have impacted on you and/or your area of the university.
We would recommend that you do not use your university email account to do this, for obvious reasons.
We will be compiling a summary of your responses to present to the university’s Board of Governors. Please let us know if you would like your name to be attached to your comments. Unless you expressly ask us to do so, we will assume that you would prefer not to be named individually. We would also be interested to hear from former staff who may have pertinent observations about the university’s executive management.
Please do not include personal abuse or unsubstantiated gossip in your responses. This action is not motivated by personal animosity, but by very real concern for the direction and future of what should be a great university.
We are also interested to gauge the level of confidence that Falmouth staff have in the Vice Chancellor’s leadership. If you would like your name to be put on a formal expression of no confidence to be presented to the University’s Board of Governors, please let us know. To avoid the risk of individuals being singled out and penalised for taking such action, any such expression of no confidence will not be presented to the Board of Governors unless and until it has gathered the support of 75% of the University’s staff.
Please share this site with anyone you think may be interested.