I would rather not say the specific role I had within UEL’s Registry to protect my anonymity but I worked there for a number of years and saw first hand the challenges UEL has faced as the HE sector has become increasingly marketized. Residing somewhere near the bottom of the league tables the struggle for market share has become increasingly challenging. It feels like standards have really been lowered to get bums on seats in recent years and even then staff have had to be cut so as to balance the books.
During the last restructure a false dichotomy was made between important student facing staff and back-office staff in Registry that were somehow superfluous to requirements. We lost 6.5 FTE and morale was really hit – the suggestion that we were somehow irrelevant to the student experience was a real kick in the teeth from upper management. Registry became an incredibly dysfunctional place to work during this period. I use the term ‘restructure’ but what I really mean is fewer people doing more work.
Registry became quite a negative and stressful working environment and I could really sense the frustration of front line staff like the Hub who were often one the ones getting shouted at when a mailbox went unanswered. E-mails became more curt. When you are doing the job of two people there isn’t the time to write a softer e-mail. There isn’t the time to build relationships with other teams. There isn’t time to do anything other than answer your overflowing mailbox.
Then there was the students’ union most adept at pointing out when a process had not been followed correctly. It felt as though they were trying to grind us down challenging every conceivable decision across a range of teams. Or is that just the bunker mentality you develop working in Registry for too long?
Looking back it is clear that UEL has become far too top down an institution and far too centralised. Part of the problem was that academics were simply not trusted to make decisions so far too much was being funnelled at us when arguably front-line staff were in a far better position to sort things out. I just wish there was a culture where front line staff whether academic or non-academic were trusted a bit more.
I hope that going forward there is a bit more stability at the top of the organisation. For the last few years changes just didn’t have the time to bed in and with new leadership teams policies were introduced at (far too) short notice. It goes without saying that there wasn’t a culture where anyone could say the new attendance policy wasn’t working or that January enrolment was a shambles You learnt to keep your head down if you wanted to survive.