Evolving Goldsmiths: “incompetent, malicious or both”

Letter from ART DBM to HR – a devastating critique of ‘Evolving Goldsmiths’

Dear HR/ Ask Change team,

External independent audit

The various College papers that have been provided do not show the full cause of the current financial crisis.

In the consultation paper ‘Consultation on Phase 1 of School Restructuring’ para 1b – ‘limited resource’ it states:

In each of the past five years Goldsmiths has returned an underlying deficit’ This is the first time that this information has been provided to DBMs.

It should be noted that all financial control during these five years has been exercised by the College’s Senior Management.

The academic departmental Heads request resources at the annual planning round and at the annual budgeting meetings but it is College Senior Management that has control over all such decisions.

In order to resolve the current financial problems the College proposes to provide College Senior Management with even greater control.

Page 16 of the paper ‘Overhead Recovery Model’ (part of the January 2020 GLG paper) shows at Appendix D that the costs of the Non-Academic Services of the College to be just under £61 million.

It has been the case that the College has had a Senior Management Strategy in place for over 15 years to provide professional support services of sufficient size and proportion that it is now a huge burden placed on the income generating academic departments.

Prior to the dismantling of the income generating academic departments would it be beneficial to have an independent external audit, if such has not already been provided?

Please provide to DBMs a copy of an external independent audit of the causes of the underlying financial problems as part of the consultation process.

Misleading or untruthful

On the College ‘s Goldmine it states:

The plan reflects valuable feedback from Heads of Department, who have described the volume of work and expectation as fundamental challenges to their roles. Moving to the new model will release capacity back to academic rather than administrative issues.

This statement is either misleading or is untruthful. Heads of Department were not consulted prior to the GLG paper at the end of January 2020.

National Student Survey

The timing of this consultation process is regrettable as the NSS is now underway and the college has previously stated how important it is to receive positive feedback from the students. It can be expected that the survey will produce less than optimum results.

The College Senior Management should accept that the timing of their proposals will result in a downturn in the NSS results and the potential reduction in undergraduate recruitment that may result.


Policy on Managing Organisational Change

Paragraph 11 states:

Goldsmiths is committed to full disclosure of information, including financial information, necessary for consideration of these issues

However, the relevant College Council paper remains restricted and has not been shared with DBMs.

Please provide a copy of the relevant College Council paper to DBMs as part of the consultation process.

Administrative Work

In the consultation paper ‘Consultation on Phase 1 of School Restructuring’ para 1c – ‘inadequate existing organisational structures’ it states:

“….many of the administrative demands of running academic departments fall on academic staff who find themselves taken up with ‘administrative duties’. We need structures which prioritise the use of academic skills in the academic sphere and ensure that administrative work is effectively carried out by someone better trained to do so.”

No examples of such administrative duties are provided.

Please provide a list of these administrative duties to DBMs as part of the consultation process.

F. Timeframe

The consultation timeframe has the effect of creating great distress amongst DBMs

It is noted that the timeframe for Phase 1 is up to 1 August 2020.

The timeframe proposes that management of DBMs will be realigned on 1 April.

In the consultation paper ‘Consultation on Phase 1 of School Restructuring’ paragraph 3b ‘Risks’ it states:

The efficiency gains of simply re-aligning reporting lines are likely to be more limited than could be achieved through a more substantial re-organisation. This is therefore seen as a first step, enabling the process review and redesign, analysis and consultation necessary to move to a fully integrated School administrative service. It is the intention that an integrated School structure will be finalised by 31 July 2020, and realignment to that structure complete by 1 December 2020 …..

It is noted that the Voluntary Severance Scheme concludes on 31 July 2020, this does not provide any reasonable time for consideration to be provided by DBMs who may be affected in ‘Step / Phase 2’

Please extend the Voluntary Severance Scheme until 1 December 2020.


G. Ordinances

In the consultation paper ‘Consultation on Phase 1 of School Restructuring’ para 3a – it states:

‘ ….. including through a formalised School governance structure which will be set out in revised College Ordinances, to be presented to Council for approval in April 2020 …..’

The role of Departmental Administrators is detailed in Ordinance 23

Ordinance 23 will also therefore need to be reconsidered

Please amend the timeframe to re-align the DBMs to synchronise with the HoDs on 1 August 2020

It also states that the Executive Deans ‘will be advised in their role as budget holders by Heads of Departments ….’ .

As the HoD will no longer have a DBM – who will be advising the HoD to enable them to advise the Executive Dean?

The Head and the Heart

The College proposes to remove the DBMs from the Heads of Department on 1 April 2020. The DBMs act as the hub, the effective heart, of each academic department.

After removing the heart the College Senior Management claim In ‘Consultation on Phase 1 of School Restructuring’ para 3 ‘Proposals under consultation’ that:

‘ ….the identity of academic departments will be retained ….’

It is considered that academic departments will have the identity of a dead body with no effective ‘head’ and no ‘heart’. It is assumed that this is not the College’s intention.

The School

The Senior Management propose in the consultation paper ‘Consultation on Phase 1 of School Restructuring’ para 3a ‘Benefits’:

Financial management at School-level will enable us to achieve economies of scale across larger budgets, share good practice and consistent approaches and harness the benefits of joint endeavour.’

This shows a fundamental lack of understanding. Any attempt to provide a ‘one-size fits all’ solution will provide services that meet no actual needs. Departments can only thrive by understanding the specific needs of their students and being responsive to real change.

Executive Deans, School Administrators will not have the necessary understandings that currently exist in departmental academic administrative teams. As these teams are fully integrated into a School, the knowledge will quickly disolve and this knowledge will be then soon be lost forever.


UAL: Change Management Framework

We have received a document from UAL which includes the following statements which we think apply currently within the consultation process:

Page 11 states:

Change which is not thoroughly and thoughtfully implemented is unlikely to yield good results and will decrease organisational effectiveness.

It goes on to say:

Badly managed change can cause distress and distrust, limiting effectiveness and damaging the employee / employer relationship in the long term.

And on page 32 it states:

Consultation can be viewed as a ‘tick box’ exercise that looks good where those consulted don’t believe their feedback has been taken into account or wont be acted upon. This perception damages ongoing relationships and trust.

K. Consultation

The provision of such the paper ‘Consultation on Phase 1 of School Restructuring’ without prior consultation with HoDs or DBMs is a reckless act.

The College is proposing to centralise responsibilities. This is not a proposed evolution but is a huge gamble from which there may be no going-back.

The day to day non-academic operations are managed by DBMs and their staff.

The dislocation of the DBM role from the HoD is no small ‘minor’ change. If the staff reporting to the DBM are to follow them into the School as per paragraph 3b of the Consultation paper then some academic departments would solely consist of academic staff and would be a very different organisation. If DBM staff are not to follow them into the School then some DBM roles would alter most considerably.

There have, in the past, been many previous proposals to create efficiencies by grouping departments in various ways. These proposals all perished. Our academic departments have all evolved independently to meet the cultural and distinct needs of their students and disciplines.

The current plans as outlined will most likely not be able to be un-done and will then lead to the end of the College as an independent body.

In Conclusion

The Consultation process is either incompetent, malicious or both. It is wholly unreasonable.
Added Later:


Dear xxx, Please add: M.

The wish to standardise services often follows a well intentioned motive. I have found that the imposition of such standards is often fraught. To create meaningful standards which do not actually create a reduction in service provision and can be applied across all 18 academic departments is complex.

To achieve standards of provision across the 18 academic departments can most easily be achieved if no account is given to the cultural identity of the 18. To imagine that the 18 can be homogenised into one without loss of identity would be a grave error.

In the Department of Art we treat all students as individuals and in accordance with their needs. It is having such an individuated and valued approach which keeps our retention rates so very high. To treat students in accord with a common standard could be alienating and a huge step backwards.


The suggestion that efficiencies can be made by bringing together the budgets of the 18, fundamentally misses the point that we are not buying the same things and that we do not do the same things as each other.

If it is the intention to provide a uniform service then there would no longer be a need for 18 academic departments and then perhaps there would no longer be a need for Goldsmiths.

Best wishes Ken

Ken Ross-Blundell DBM – Art
14 February 2020