King’s Palaeography R.I.P

On Friday, the administration of King’s received a friendly write-up in the business section of The Times online. The title, “Making the cut and saving a world-class academic asset”, and the statement that “King’s looks set to keep its chair in palaeography, with a widened remit, after revising its plans” gave the impression that the position would be spared.

However, today (via the facebook group and an email circulated by David Ganz on the Apilist) we learn that Ganz and King’s College London have signed a voluntary severance agreement, the details of which are not public, but which allows either party to state:

‘On 26th January the college announced that, due to financial constraints associated with cuts in Higher Education Funding it would no longer be able to fund the current Chair in Palaeography (a position created by the university of London in 1949) The College has since this announcement re-examined the situation as part of the 90 day consultation exercise and believes that it may be able to establish a new Chair of Palaeography and Manuscript Studies at some point in the future.’

Looks like Trainor told The Times reporter something along the lines of King’s is looking to keep palaeography, which prompted the reporter to relate that it is ‘keeping
its [but, note, not the] chair’, but that Trainor also mentioned a wider remit and future plans, rhetorical moves that allow the administration to try to parry any complaints from the array of local and international protests, but make no firm commitment to the subject. In fact, from a common sense point of view the decision to terminate the position, only (allegedly) to start it up later–there is no practical difference between a chair in palaeography and a chair in palaeography and manuscript studies, other than rhetoric to circumvent labour laws–is bass-ackwards. This is coming from an administration that has, in its mind, worked tirelessly to enhance, promote and preserve the KCL ‘brand’.

Well, outside of contingencies I can’t imagine, you don’t stop producing and promoting a successful product, only to relaunch it under a different name later. At least not if you truly want to maintain the success of the product. On the other hand, if you want to kill something off, but want to keep e-mails about the discontinuation to a minimum, then you might very well discontinue the item, but attempt to palliate concerns by promising that a new, better, improved version, one that will meet all your expectations and more is just around the corner (and repeat and repeat and repeat it until people stop asking).

You’ve got to hand it to Trainor though. He wrapped The Times reporter well around his finger (although seeing as the piece was destined for the business section, it probably didn’t take too much). He managed to make cuts! and save the world-class status of the institution!

Not really, but I guess that’s a better story than ‘Making cuts and destroying world-class academic assets’. What a waste.

2 comments

  1. What are the plans for the manuscripts in Senate House Library. Might it be easier for Kings or UCL to snaffle them when there is no principled Professor of Palaeography around to defend open access and collective ownership?