Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The internal market… FFS

The insane and discredited idea of 'internal markets' has reached us. If you're not sure what it is, here's how it works. Different departments in an organisation no longer work together, but are given budgets to spend within the organisation. 

So in the NHS, a dermatology department would 'pay' a ward for a patient's bed. It was imaginary of course - the hospital's money stayed in the bank the whole time. The idea was that these virtual budgets would make departments efficient, e.g. by not booking a bed for a dermatology patient if there was any way around it. The virtual nature of the system only lasted until the dermatologists wanted an emergency bed for an extra patient, and was told to get lost by the ward, even though the beds, nurses and buildings were all there.

It's insane. It replaces institutional planning with a free-for-all based on a concept ('efficiency') which may well have nothing to do with the organisation's - or user's - needs. 

Now it's being applied to the university's timetable:

This year the School will be subject to a fine for each module change made after the 15th of August (even if we are giving rooms back).  Therefore, please check your timetable carefully, and read the two attached PDF documents together with P. T’s email which explains in more detail about potential fines and the reasoning behind the new system.
As part of the drive to change behaviour at the planning stage of timetabling, financial penalties will be applied to Schools that cancel teaching events after the publication of the timetable.
The following penalties will be applied where rooms are booked to modules pre-publication, and later cancelled.
Lecture theatres and PC Labs: £200 per hour
Other spaces: £100 per hour
Bonkers. It's not my money, so I won't care about one part of the university 'fining' another part of the university. If they fine us for offering back rooms we find we don't need, I'll just keep the room unused, leading to a loss of amenity. If I decide that a class needs to walk outside to illustrate a point, we'll be fined. 

Some decisions show us where the institution's priorities lie:
Learning Pod 2 will be opened up as social learning space to encourage students to stay within the building between teaching events and to improve use of the Go Eat facility 
Nice. So classes are now 'teaching events' and students are now captive customers. We lure them in with degrees and sell them fizzy drinks. 

Emergencies will be chargeable too:
If notification of the cancellation is received via the helpdesk at least two working hours before the event is due to take place, a 20% discount will be applied if any cancellation penalty is to be incurred. 
Fascinating. So some money is moved from the school's budget to… where, exactly? What's it spent on? Will it benefit the students? Will departments charge staff? How do I avoid the 2 hour cutoff if I'm teaching at 9? There certainly won't be anyone in their office at 7 a.m. What's the point anyway? It's not as if another class can be given that room - there aren't crowds of lecturers and students cruising the campus in the hope of commandeering a classroom for guerrilla teaching.

I see. So we're to be subject to discipline, rather than offered guidance and explanation (or indeed more - and more suitable - classrooms so that we can cater for the huge number of students we recruit. 

This, readers, is the way that universities will all be coping from next year: reduced space, increased class sizes, fewer staff, managerial pressure on academic standards, and 'retail opportunities' deployed to capture whatever spare cash the students have. 

This is management gone mad: they've forgotten that we're people, not work units to be moved around on a chess board.


Anonymous said...

Well who can we blame for block booking of rooms, that cater for large groups, which are subsequently not used. This is routinely done by some schools thus preventing other schools using them. It is not only crazy but selfish.

The Plashing Vole said...

There definitely are problems: but imaginary accounting procedures + treating academics as adjuncts to a machine is not the way to go about it.