So, it is over, more or less. King’s College has issued a few statements, backtracked on a few trivialities, and everyone is happy, judging by the posts. The union seems pleased, and all is at peace.
Except, of course that it isn’t. The management of King’s has got its way in all essentials. It has won the right to reshape departments at its pleasure. It has adopted the shoddy tactic of forcing people out of their jobs at will and got away with it. The only difference now is that it operates through a committee with helpful academics who are prepared to “redefine” a post in order to force incumbents out. So much for academic solidarity.
So the stage is now set for the next round, for the real cuts, the ones that really hurt. The next time a head of department wishes to transfer resources from mainstream subjects into modish and unproven initiatives like the “digital humanities,” there will be a precedent and a model.
The next time a colleague of distinction doesn't quite fit in, the way will be open for his job to be redefined -- History of France changed, perhaps, to History of the French. That is all that is required, and then the job can be readvertised in a way which forces the offending clerk into voluntary redundancy.
Or perhaps, rather like Sussex, the management will decide that all of European history is of no importance and axe it. Or like Middlesex get rid of philosophy in its entirety. They can do so, now, whenever they want. And there won’t be an international outcry next time. Such a chance comes only once.
It is a pity. The Academics of King’s had a opportunity to defend more than themselves, more than their own jobs. Not enough wanted to. Some saw advantage for themselves. Some did not care. Some senior academics whose opinion counted preferred to make life easy for the management. Others felt that there was no point in carrying on, and gave up.
I fear they will regret it, senior and junior, not least because the management now has the measure of them, and knows how to get its way.
But all is well. No-one responsible for making King’s a laughing stock has been fired; indeed they will probably be rewarded for taking tough decisions.
The last Professor of Palaeography in Britain will lose his job.
Professor Trainor gets a knighthood for services to higher education.
No further comment is necessary.
-- Iain Pears