As QM management cuts a swathe through our School of Medicine and Dentistry, news of the crude, bullying and self-defeating tactics being used against staff is reaching the outside world. The following appeared in the editorial of the latest edition of The Lancet:
Clive Seale, the highly respected Sir Michael Perrin Chair of Medical Sociology at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, has received a letter from the medical school’s authorities to say that his post is “at risk”. The reason? The medical school is attempting to save £3 million through compulsory redundancies. Clive Seale is one of 27 academics at Barts who have received such letters. His work is of international stature. There is anger among academic staff at the aggressive approach taken by the medical school’s Dean for Research towards greatly admired colleagues. One distinguished professor reports that the medical school’s Dean for Research is “applying metrics that are far too crude” for assessing academic performance. The result is that the Dean has become a deeply “unpopular” figure. The most senior academic leaders at the medical school “are furious with the way [the Dean for Research] has gone about it”. He has used “blunt” and “bully-boy” instruments to upset highly valued staff . The result is a “pretty horrible” culture within the medical school. The great fear the medical school is seized with is REF2014—the 2014 Research Excellence Framework, which determines the distribution of billions of pounds of government money to UK universities. The anxiety of performing badly is leading this particular Dean, some say, to use untested and irrelevant metrics to judge the performance of colleagues. At Barts, he has so thoroughly upset so many at the medical school that “rearguard activity” to limit the damage is now underway. Many see the Dean as discredited and are now trying to pull the institution back from the brink of self-immolation. They will hopefully succeed, leaving the Dean’s own performance open to deservedly critical scrutiny.
UCU could not agree more. However, we would also emphasise that there are 43 staff at risk, not just 27 (the 43 are a mix of clinical and clinical-academic). Moreover, while the fate of someone like Prof Seale is obviously likely to draw external attention, the threat of redundancy is an affront to all staff, not just “greatly admired” individuals well-known outside the College.
When the editor of the world’s most respected medical journal warns that our institution is on “the brink of self-immolation” and backs those fighting a rearguard action to save it, isn’t it time for our misguided managers to finally stop what they are doing? Their irresponsible strategy is setting Queen Mary on the road to ruin, starting with our College’s reputation, which is rapidly crumbling.