My position on this proposed restructure is simple: I think it is a poor plan, and I think it must be rejected. Lots of reasons.
Most important, I think it cuts expert capacity in the museums, and that’s the resource we academics need most from UCL museums and collections. I want experts in those museums who know the collections well, who know how academic life works, and who know what we need when we come in to ask for help with our teaching, research, and impact. We have experts now, but this proposal plans redundancies for experts, in the form of the museum managers. That’s a poor idea. They’re the ones with the synthetic expertise needed to bring together collections, ideas, and people like us. The plan replaces them with people who have other skills, and skills at lesser professional grades. I don’t want to lose expert capacity.
Second, I think any re-structure needs to be driven by a strategy focused on academic missions. The proposed re-structure strikes me as running away from service to the academic community and running towards executive needs of the corporate university. I think the latter needs are important, but I think the academic mission is more important. I also think (in fact, I know, – because I know how the system really works on the inside) the executive needs can be met through other means. I think this proposed re-structure is going to make it harder for us to deliver UCL agendas such as the UCL Education Strategy and harder to innovate in areas such as object-based learning and an improved student experience. I find it indefensible that academic consultation for this plan seems to have been nil. What on Earth was the re-design team thinking? They’ve been planning this re-structure for nearly a year!
I think whoever created this plan has wandered off course. I think the unit needs to be directed by someone with academic standing, and I think they need to work with academic oversight. This will bring the unit back on track.
Finally, I want UCL museums and collections to be stronger, not weaker. I think the museums are fantastic. I think staff in the museums and collections community are fantastic, too. I’m proud to see them celebrated in Time Out and Trip Advisor as well as across social media. I’ve been praising them for twenty years. I don’t think they’re broken, despite what their boss claims. I don’t think radical re-organisation is in the best interests of the museums. I don’t think it’ll improve the unit’s service to the academic community.
Why are these documents posted via WordPress?
UCL Culture’s consultation has been very, very quiet. Indeed, I think “consultation” is a poor choice of wording. I cannot find the material posted online anywhere. I’ve found it in no newsletter. I did not receive it in any email about it. (I’m a head of department, and I get a lot of emails from professional services units. None on this. Odd. My department has academics with expertise in the areas served by this unit, and we have ongoing collaborations with people in UCL Culture. Still, not a peep.)
UCL Culture is the unit that is supposed to teach academics how to engage, for goodness sake. The re-structure doesn’t even follow the guidance the unit tells academics are best practice.
Since 2015, UCL Culture has spent a lot of money on communications and marketing, manifesto and flashy websites. But it’s gone awfully quiet about this consultation.
When asked about this, the unit’s Director told me, “It was sent to Deans for comment.” To me, that is a poor strategy for consultation. I believe it represents a failure in engagement.