There was a big hullaballoo today as the Vice Chancellor, Professor Victor Crispin, unveiled the new university mission statement and logo. Staff, and the unions in particular, are outraged by the amount of money that has been spent in getting a marketing company to design the new logo, especially at a time when cutbacks are being made in staff numbers and some departments are threatened with closure. What's more the cost of the logo has doubled from the original estimate we were given to nearly £400,000. And the worst thing is the logo itself which looks like some kind of teenage doodle. It is just the four points of the compass with the letters USE in bold at the bottom, underneath the south pointing arrow. We have both marketing and design expertise in the university itself who could have done a better job.
In launching the new logo, Victor Crispin said that he was delighted with the result and that it provided the university with a wonderful new integrated visual identity. The new logo must be included on all university stationery and documents, and there would be a gradual roll out across the campus to update all building labels and other signposts. So that will add a lot more to the cost. Crispin warned staff that there would be strict guidance on how the new logo could be used - for example there must be no attempt to change the size or colour of the image on documents - and that the marketing department had produced a special "brand book" on the use of the logo which was available on the university intranet.
Turning to the mission statement Crispin said that it was crucial that staff kept it in mind at all times to guide them in their work. Here it is:
"The University of the South of England (USE) is committed to excellence in its teaching, research and knowledge exchange activities. It will strive to meet the needs of an increasingly diverse body of students, to provide a service to the local community, and to follow its Green Agenda. "
In a way I don't have a problem with any of this, although we can't be excellent at everything, especially when resources are not provided to underpin our activities. And I am still not really sure what is meant by "knowledge exchange". Last year it was called "knowledge transfer" but I understand that this was thought to suggest a one way movement of knowledge rather than a two way process between the university and industry.
The problem was the VC went on to say that he wanted staff to remember that their teaching, research and knowledge exchange activities should be very much focused on USE, that is applied and practical rather than theoretical and esoteric. You can't just research on what interests or stimulates you - it must have practical application and match one of the Research Councils' recommended areas of research. The trouble with this approach to research is that you can't always tell in advance what is going to be of real practical value. Some of the most useful scientific breakthroughs have come from "pure" research. Who would have known in advance that work on DNA would lead to applications in crime fighting or health screening, for example? Or that the creation of a hypertext markup language and protocol would spawn electronic commerce and social networking in the way that it has?
I suppose what it means is that if I want to pursue a research topic that has not been "approved" I shall just have to do it in my own time. Well, there is nothing much new there I suppose as our "workload model" never really provided much time for research once all the teaching and admin work had been put in.