As many staff are already aware, Goldsmiths SMT are engaged in a restructuring process that will lead to the closure of programmes and to the loss of many of our jobs. This has been communicated as inevitable: It is not.
It is important that we remember that concrete alternatives exist- staff and students at Goldsmiths together with GUCU have been involved for several years in producing creative analysis and alternatives to the marketisation of HE.
1. Re-setting the scale of financial shortfall to the reality of the situation. The truth is we have done much better with recruitment than projected this autumn and do not need £25 million in loans in order to address our current levels of deficit. Even allowing for a level of uncertainty around conversion and using SMT’s own scenario planning we estimate the figure that is needed to be approximately half of this.
2. Securing an appropriately sized bridging loan to give us a year to make decisions that are informed by broader metrics and student and staff input and do not put the university in turmoil in the midst of a global pandemic. As evidenced by initiatives such as Goldsmiths Gold Paper, Collective Change, Doing Higher Education Our Way, Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Actionand others, Goldsmiths staff and students have enthusiastically worked to bring change to the College over the years, providing creative alternatives to a model of HE entirely dictated by market values.
3. Refusing a ‘Shape and Size’ review that uses dubious data in an inconsistent way; disregarding contextual knowledge; and taking the ‘Guardian University Guide’ as a crucial metric, with the inevitable result that the research produced at Goldsmiths is systematically undervalued.
4. Defending departmental autonomy and the ecology of research and teaching across the college against a model of excessive centralisation and managerialism that would undermine what is unique about Goldsmiths.
5. Assuring that currently inefficient systems and procedures (from which we have all suffered during the start of term) are rethought and brought up to date. Staff are overwhelmingly in favour of change, but one that is informed by real needs and the experiences of students and staff.
The current strategy to accelerate a restructuring process is the product of choice, not necessity. It is informed by an unrelentingly negative view of the College. While putatively aiming to “shrink now to grow later” the vision that has so far been presented remakes the college as one that is barely recognisable, moving towards applied disciplines and away from the emphasis in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences that the College is known for.
While GUCU can communicate with its members, and colleagues communicate with others in their Departments, SMT sends frequent communications to the entire College. The narrative of crisis and failure crafted through these emails is the narrative that gets through to us and it is not surprising if it starts to take root, making us feel fearful, isolated and pessimistic about the possibility of things being different. Their hope is that, when compulsory redundancies are announced following the KPMG review in November, colleagues will be too frightened and exhausted to make too much of a fuss as they are downsized for the ‘greater good of the College’ and the silent majority of ‘the students’ that our Warden is always leaning on.
We must send a clear and positive message against the current chaotic and ill-informed planning framework and for our alternative. Our plan for the future must be informed by the experts: Goldsmiths staff and students.