In February 2018, UCL Culture announced a consultation for a proposed re-structure. The proposal is controversial for many reasons.
- In detail, the plan has many faults.
- In overall vision, the plan proposals some quite odd directions and seems quite out of step with modern university museums and public engagement.
- In terms of a consultation process, this proposal has been an embarrassing disaster. The unit did not circulate any documents associated with this consultation, and managers sharply criticised this site for posting them, citing “data protection” issues even though one the unit’s top managers agreed the documents posted were public and could be circulated.
- In terms of unit philosophy, this consultation makes a shambles of the unit’s core philosophy of engagement. “…we believe everyone throughout the university and across the communities we serve has an active part to play,” it says (manifesto). “We believe that it starts with ‘the power of open’; open to sharing and developing knowledge, open to discussion and debate and vitally, open in terms of access to that knowledge.” (Simon Cane, Director UCL Culture source)
Seems the UCL restructure is a consultation where outsiders aren’t supposed to know what’s going on. It’s a process where outsiders don’t get a say. After reading the proposal, hundreds of people realised why that might be so: this is a terrible plan and it shouldn’t be implemented. Seems this consultation is a process where power has been held firmly by a small team who think they know best. The very best the managers have said about engagement has been that university executives were “informed and supplied” with a business case. How is this the power of “open” with the community?
Original proposal widely and fully criticised. 13 February 2018 proposal was criticised in an avalanche of letters submitted to the consultation project. How many is an avalanche? The unit has not disclosed. I’ve seen more than 270 letters submitted by stakeholders who have criticised the proposal and recommended rejection. These were copied to me on submission. It’s fair to say, this community think the proposal should be rejected.
End of consultation period. 13 March 2018. This rather odd consultation process ran for only 30 days. The unit’s managers chose to postpone decisions until the end of April.
Decision making. end of April 2018. With a month of pause passing, decisions are starting to emerge. What’s most disconcerting is that there appears to be a plan about to be implemented, not acceptance by management that they got this wrong and they need to consult stakeholders widely. Was the postponement merely part of a delaying tactic? Is there a strategy to announce what amounts to cosmetic changes so as to blow smoke over the fundamental and structural concerns raised about this proposal?
We wait and see.