Category: Kingston University

A Kingston University sex scandal – and the sexism of the SMT

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There were already a couple of reasons why Simon Morgan Wortham, former Dean of Kingston University’s now defunct Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, may have been heavily demoted to the less-than-illustrious post of ‘Interim Associate Dean of Research of the Kingston School of Art’. Firstly, he was the protege and alter ego of his predecessor, Martin McQuillan, the disgraced former FASS dean and university Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, who was sacked for embezzling hundreds of thousands of pounds of FASS money, and in whose corrupt activities Morgan Wortham was implicated. Secondly, thanks largely to his and McQuillan’s mismanagement, FASS was failing as a faculty and was wound up while he was in charge – some might say as a way of getting rid of him. No wonder that Morgan Wortham is apparently embarrassed to face his staff.

Now a third possible reason has come to light: he was found shagging his Faculty PA in his university office. When his wife found out, she kicked him out, and it is rumoured he will have to give up one part of the double-barrel surname he shared with her.

So far, so typical of the slimeball. What’s worse is that the Faculty PA (whose name we won’t reveal, except to say she shared her first name with a character from ‘Friends’) was forced to resign and leave the university, while he was allowed to stay. As with the McQuillan corruption scandal, the university hushed it up.

In other words, in this age of gender equality, our progressive university (that greatly values diversity and inclusivity etc. etc. blah blah blah ) decided that the appropriate response to an incident like this was to kick out the junior, subordinate female but allow the senior male authority figure to remain. Donald Trump and Brett Kavanaugh, make way for Steven Spier !

No doubt the female staff-members at KSA will appreciate Morgan Wortham’s tender management…

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Simon Morgan Wortham and a Corrupt Tale of Two Cities (with apologies to Charles Dickens)

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What happens when two best mates and self-proclaimed ‘deconstructionists’ carve up a Faculty and treat it as their own personal fiefdom? And what links London with Paris in this sordid Dickensian tale?

Our story begins in 2010, when Middlesex University decided that CRMEP, their Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (or ‘CRAP’ as some other Middlesex staff privately referred to it), was no longer financially viable and had to close. After an outcry by CRMEP about what they saw as unfair ‘destruction’ by Middlesex and some intense lobbying of other cultural philosophers and deconstructionists, in stepped one Martin McQuillan, FASS Dean at Kingston University and self-described ‘literary theorist’.

McQuillan had been a lecturer in English at Staffordshire University for 3 years and then a deeply unpopular and unsuccessful Head of School at the University of Leeds for 4 years, and was part of the small incestuous circle of postmodern cultural ‘theorists’ who give very good reviews to each other’s work in elitist philosophy and literary journals. Consulting nobody but himself, McQuillan suddenly offered to save the CRMEP and host it at Kingston, taking on four full-time CRMEP staff. As one of the CRMEP staff later admitted, Kingston had to provide (quote) ‘a substantial sum of transitional funding’ for this to happen. But that was no problem for FASS’s Dean, a keen fan-boy of postmodern culture and anything that smacked vaguely of the more pretentious parts of French philosophy (such as the meaning of mail not arriving, and other vital questions).

The dubious deal also involved the ‘dynamic’ CRMEP being given a special large room for its ‘research centre’ on the 7th floor of the Tower Block at Penrhyn Road, equipped with a refrigerator (for the wine bottles), brand new state-of-the-art PCs, and even a dedicated area with comfy chairs for ‘thinking’. CRMEP at Kingston would only teach a handful of postgraduates, with no undergraduate teaching loads (much to the disgust of other hard-working FASS staff). The centre also remained empty for much of the time, with only one staff member using it, and then on rare occasions.

McQuillan’s fellow collaborator in this questionable project was English lecturer and close friend Simon Morgan Wortham, another so-called ‘literary critic’ and devotee of deconstruction. Together the pompous pair plotted and planned, setting up a so-called London Graduate School (LGS), of which they made themselves the two co-directors. The expensive and unaccountable LGS was designed to work with CRMEP, and the two pals made sure that any research income coming into FASS was top-sliced, with lots of lovely dosh ploughed into both CRMEP and the LGS. Very close links were forged between CRMEP and the LGS, and in 2012 the operation took on a French dimension. An MA in Contemporary European Philosophy was set up, jointly run with the University of Paris 8, with registered students doing a semester in London and a semester in Paris. Joint ‘conferences’ were also arranged, with very post-modern titles such as ‘Transdisciplinarity in French Thought’.

However, all was not well. Both the CRMEP and LGS became bottomless pits for FASS, sucking in more and more Faculty money, a situation which continued when McQuillan became the University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor for ‘Research and Innovation’ in 2015, ensuring that Morgan Wortham became his successor as FASS Dean. The dodgy duo were determined to make it all still work, though, brushing off the growing concerns of the Faculty’s finance officer about the huge sums involved. Their sheer arrogance was on full display when the devious pair disappeared off on a jolly jaunt to DePaul University in the USA in October, 2015, to attend a two-day conference grandly titled ‘Thinking Universalities: A Conference Organized Around the Work of Etienne Balibar’, with absolutely no expenses spared. Balibar was another close friend of McQuillan’s and Morgan Wortham’s, whom they had made ‘Anniversary Chair in Modern European Philosophy’ at CRMEP.

But where it all became even murkier lies in the Parisian part of the operation. Through Eric Alliez and Catherine Malabon, both CRMEP staff at the Philosophy Department at Paris 8, McQuillan and Morgan Wortham had set up and financed a special flat in Paris, claiming it could be used by any FASS researcher who needed to stay in Paris while engaged in research or writing. The problem was, hardly any FASS staff knew about this, and it was clearly not available to just any old member of FASS staff – only to CRMEP and LGS people personally vetted and approved by McQuillan and Morgan Wortham. What is worse, the dodgy pair evidently treated it as a kind of holiday flat mainly for themselves.

The tragedy is that FASS staff will never be allowed to have the full details about these clearly corrupt practices. When McQuillan’s embezzlement led him to finally getting the push in summer 2017, controversial ‘non-disclosure’ agreements were signed by the University and McQuillan. The previous V-C, Julius Weinberg, had been briefed on the scandal but did not act, while the University’s Senior Management Team (SMT) still refuses to comment, hoping it will all somehow go away. The new V-C, Steven Spier, fearful of any negative publicity, also remains determined to cover it all up. And Morgan Wortham, who was a chief beneficiary of the lucrative arrangements, is now the SMT’s senior Plan 2020 enforcer, and so has too much at stake to deconstruct his own role in the murky affair.

In the meantime, parts of the FASS staff (including lecturers in English) face a depressing Christmas 2017, with the prospect of major job cuts being announced early in 2018, and increased management pressure on those who remain. The irony, that the man tasked with savaging the university through mass redundancies and other cost-cutting measures is the same man who squandered FASS’s wealth on his own personal fripperies should not need pointing out. As Dickens wrote, ‘So wicked do destruction and secrecy appear to honest minds…’.

Thank you to the current and former Kingston University staff who have contributed information to this blog. Please keep it coming. It is only by exposing its corruption, lack of accountability and persecution of its staff that such behaviour can be stopped.

PS Please read what follows for an example of the sheer, unadulterated bullshit which Morgan Wortham regularly pens for the edification of his long-suffering staff:

Sent: 31 August 2017 09:32
Subject: Message from the Dean – All Faculty Autumn Newsletter

Dear All,
 
I know all of us are now preparing for the new academic year, having gone through a period of change over the past twelve months that has been demanding and sometimes painful. As everyone knows, rapid changes in national H.E. policy and sector trends affecting the student market have caused a great deal of instability, and the University has needed to accelerate the pace of change to respond effectively to the new set of conditions we face. I am aware that, one way or another, the first two phases of Plan 2020 impacted on FASS more than any other part of the University, and I do appreciate the pressures this has placed on both academic and professional support staff right across the Faculty. Equally, through such a difficult year, I have been hugely impressed by, and very grateful for, the great professionalism shown by FASS staff in continuing to work in collegiate ways, continuing to build a good student experience, taking seriously the need to consider and implement improvements where necessary, and engaging with new initiatives and developments in a constructive spirit.
 
Towards the end of the academic year, we have seen some positive results in the NSS, including some notable achievements at the very top of the scale, but also steady improvement against university and sector norms in many of our subject areas. We are now much less susceptible than in the past to wide variations and swings in scoring, and this is a testament to the work that has been done to establish better consistency right across the different elements of the student experience. There is still more to do, and targeted action plans will need to be carefully devised by subject areas where improvement is needed, but I do feel the changes we have made—and are continuing to make—are beginning to deliver the right results. Equally, the recruitment effort through clearing has produced a pleasing result. It looks as though the Faculty will achieve and possibly exceed the targets set for undergraduate and postgraduate student intake, again with certain subject areas achieving notable successes. Certainly, we have had a much better clearing than last year, and thanks are due to all those who worked so hard to make the process a success. Our targets are necessarily much smaller than they once were, given changes in market demand, and this continues to create challenges in terms of managing the levels of resource needed to deliver our courses. Trends in recruitment also make timely further portfolio review to ensure we have the right courses to attract students at sustainable levels. With a new school and departmental landscape now in place across FASS, from very early in the new academic year the Faculty will be working with every subject area to establish a credible plan in each subject area, designed to ensure academic and financial health in the interests of future stability and sustainability. There is more work to do in some areas than in others, but I am committed this year to taking the Faculty forward to a position whereby, at the start of 2018/19, we will be in the best shape possible: in terms of the quality and reputation of our academic offer; in terms of the market ‘fit’ of our portfolio; and in terms of the alignment we can demonstrate between the income we derive predominantly from student fees, and the resources we need to deliver the academic offer.
 
In terms of the new ‘look’ of FASS at school and departmental level, let me take this opportunity to welcome Law to the Faculty. We are delighted to be able to include Law in the range of courses we teach, to explore opportunities to develop our Law provision in the context of its new location, and to support Law as it continues to build its academic reputation, its teaching and its research. I know that all staff in FASS will do their utmost to make colleagues in Law welcome, and work hard to help successfully integrate this subject area within the Faculty. It is also important to note that from 2017/18, Film will be consolidated in KSA. I know this has been a long and difficult process. I am grateful to staff in Film for the enormous contribution they have made to the Faculty, and mindful of the pressures that have faced them in recent months. I am sure we wish colleagues transferring to KSA all the best for the future, and I am certain that future collaboration can only be productive.   
 
Over the summer, through my PVC role I have taken on responsibility for Plan 2020. While the next phase does not impact directly on FASS, nevertheless there are a number of change initiatives in the University that will call for staff engagement in every part of the institution, and indeed the SMT are working hard to ensure that all aspects of change in the University fully join up: that we ourselves understand how they interact with one another, but also—and just as importantly—that this makes sense to everybody at Kingston. Improvements to the quality of our courses, review and development of the portfolio in relation to the student market of today and tomorrow, as well as broader changes in the ways we work together across the University, will require everyone to demonstrate real commitment and hard work in taking Kingston forward. I feel very confident that we are capable of rising to the challenges we face. In the autumn the Vice-Chancellor will lead an institution-wide conversation about our vision and mission. In discussing this within the SMT just before the summer, I was struck by the extent to which a real passion for the values and goals shared by many staff throughout the University were unanimously voiced by members the senior team. That may surprise some people, and others may not be convinced. If, in the past, Kingston has suffered from a rather fragmented and disconnected institutional environment, with silos of activity sometimes not fully joining up in terms of a single University culture, it is important for the SMT to play its part—working alongside the wider leadership team in the University as well as all staff in our academic and support departments—to ensure that we build a future that is genuinely a shared one. The University needs to reach out to its staff, and listen to them. It asks more of them than ever before, but it also needs to support them better than ever before. I hope the discussions we will have right across the campus this autumn will be conducted in that spirit, and will have positive results for everybody.
 
Lastly, I want to announce some changes in the Faculty Management Team and in other FASS roles. Prof. Phil Terry will be taking up responsibility for the research and enterprise brief on an interim basis as a consequence of Prof. Peter Buse acting up as PVC Research and Enterprise until a permanent appointment is made. Prof. Adrian Coyle is taking over as Chair of Faculty Ethics Committee as Prof. Frederic Vallee-Tourangeau stands down from his Faculty responsibilities. I want to take this opportunity to thank Fred for all his hard work in supporting postgraduate research in FASS in recent years. Having seen great progress during this time in the way we deliver and support PGR, Faculty oversight of this area will now revert to the Associate Dean role.             
 
The coming year will undoubtedly be a busy one. Alongside all the other things we will be doing, the Faculty will also need to go through a mock REF run by the University in preparation for the next national exercise. The ‘pipeline’ we have established for research funding bids, as well as the output review process we ran last year, demonstrate our commitment to research and our desire to be in the best shape possible for future assessment. So, a busy year all round, but I am sure a productive one. Welcome back to everybody. 
 
Regards,
Simon
 
Professor Simon Morgan Wortham
Pro Vice Chancellor and Dean
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Kingston University

EM Building (PR EM 3003)

Penrhyn Road

Kingston KT1 2EE


The London Graduate School

www.thelondongraduateschool.co.uk

Martin McQuillan’s embezzlement of £200,000 of research money hushed up by the Kingston University SMT

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Last July saw the surprise resignation of Martin McQuillan, Kingston University‘s ‘Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation’, previously widely seen as one of the most powerful figures in the university. This was allegedly for ‘personal reasons’, according to the announcement that appeared briefly on the university website, and the university ‘wished him well’, but there was no expression of thanks for his years of service. McQuillan did not leave to assume a new post elsewhere, instead joining the swelling ranks of Britain’s academic unemployed. He has since reinvented himself as ‘editor’ of ‘HE’, the online publication of an obscure outfit called ‘*Research‘ – a minor academic advertising service with little more than two thousand Twitter followers. This was quite a fall for a man notorious for his extreme ambition, who joked publicly about playing ‘Vice-Chancellor retirement bingo’.

The real reasons for McQuillan’s abrupt departure were nevertheless spread by word of mouth between Kingston University staff, eventually finding their way onto the Kingston University Dissenter’s Blog, a widely read blog run by a Kingston staff member, that ‘highlights aggressive management at Kingston and other UK universities’. McQuillan had been pushed out because he was found to have been embezzling large amounts of research money – apparently in the region of £200,000. As Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), McQuillan’s corrupt carryings on had been detected by some, including the late Christine Bradley, FASS finance officer, and by Professor Philip Spencer, Associate Dean of FASS. Yet Bradley was sacked by McQuillan while Spencer was pushed into early retirement (McQuillan did not attend his leaving party). When the Senior Management Team (SMT) finally discovered his criminal activities, however, instead of reporting him to the police as a law-abiding university would have done, they let him go quietly, with both parties signing a non-disclosure agreement.

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The cover-up was apparently done under the auspices of Kingston’s vice-chancellor, Steven Spier, who was apparently quite ready to conceal from the public the criminal theft of its money, just to save the SMT a bit of embarrassment. The SMT could not legitimately claim that it had had no inkling of his corrupt activities; at least one member of staff had reported to them that McQuillan had attempted to bribe him, but received no response. McQuillan was also rumoured to have fled another scandal at his previous post at the University of Leeds. He was roundly disliked by FASS staff for his bullying and his contemptuous treatment of them, and for being generally unwilling to meet with them if he could at all help it, or even turn up for work on campus (he had promised at the time of his appointment as dean of FASS to relocate from Manchester, but failed to keep his promise, and generally worked from his home there).

McQuillan was, in short, a symptom of, rather than the exception to, the behaviour of the SMT at Kingston. His malign influence over the declining, crisis-ridden university continues in the form of his close friend and sidekick, Simon Morgan Wortham. McQuillan and Morgan Wortham have had a relationship going back many years; both purveyors of the same pretentious postmodernist pseudo-scholarship, they edited volumes together; thanked each other in acknowledgements; and established together their own autonomous little fiefdom within Kingston University: the privileged and unaccountable ‘London Graduate School‘, on whose management board McQuillan still appears. McQuillan stayed at Morgan Wortham’s home while he was settling in as Dean of FASS.

When McQuillan played his cynical rankings game of refusing to enter departments for the last Research Excellence Framework (REF) that hadn’t scored highly enough in the mock exercise, he left it to slimy, insincere Morgan Wortham to present the policy to the outraged FASS staff and pretend to listen to their concerns before ignoring them. When McQuillan was promoted to Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, he appointed Morgan Wortham Dean of FASS in his place – with no consultation with FASS staff or open competition. As one Kingston insider noted,  ‘It smacked of a North Korean-style dynastic handover rather than a modern Uni.’ Yet although greatly tainted by his association with McQuillan, of whose criminal activities he was surely aware, Morgan Wortham has actually been promoted since the departure of the former. He is now in charge of the university-wide implementation of ‘Plan2020‘ – the SMT’s brutal policy of downsizing and redundancies, with the aim of turning the university into little more than a factory churning out substandard degrees for students with the money to pay, but unable to get a place anywhere better.

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Morgan Wortham’s promotion was not a reflection of any managerial aptitude on his part. As a result of his and McQuillan’s incompetence at the head of FASS, the Department of Politics fell to the very bottom of the Guardian league table last year. The policy of forcing older staff into early retirement and not replacing them took its toll, but this didn’t stop management pretending the atrocious Staff Student Ratio reported by the Guardian was the result of a calculation error. The Department of History was not allowed to recruit undergraduates this year or replace departing staff, suggesting it may be for the axe – though no credible university lacks a history department. For the Department of Economics, FASS overfulfilled its Plan2020 purge target and drove out more experienced staff than they needed to; having spent a fortune on Voluntary Early Pension packages, they may now need to recruit again. KU’s celebrity Economics professor Steve Keen has announced publicly he’s retiring because the university has become an ‘aimless, money-grubbing exploiter of students’.

Meanwhile, after making his contribution to the destruction of a once-respectable university and stealing a large amount of taxpayer’s money, McQuillan is trying to reinvent himself. He chaired a fringe meeting on Higher Education reform at the 2017 Conservative Party Conference in Manchester on 2 October at the Stanley Livingstone Suite at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotel, Manchester, alongside the National Union of Students’ Shakira Martin and Mark Leach, director of WonkHE, for which McQuillan also works. McQuillan has also become a contributor to The Guardian on topics related to higher education, where he poses as progressive and left-wing – in stark contrast to his aggressive and bullying managerial methods while at Kingston. For these people, it’s all about presentation.

Those wishing to know Kingston University’s official line on this matter should write to Vice-Chancellor Steven Spier at s.spier@kingston.ac.uk.