Category Archives: Uncategorized

Old posting on Brunel/WLIHE university merger, from late 2000s.

Cannot remember the context, but this old posting was unpublished so I though this was worth putting up:

I have lived through one university merger  – The West London Institute of Education in Osterley/Isleworth, and Brunel University (London, UK).

I taught at the West London Institute of Higher Education, a small higher education institution in West London, starting in 1993. A report of my experiences is here. In the  early 1990s, a rumour of a possible merger between Kingston University and WLIHE never eventuated. I was actually in the lunch queue at Borough Road campus, WLIHE standing behind the Brunel and WLIHE  management when I heard them discussing a merger. This was  in 1994 (one of the people  was Michael Sterling, the VC of Brunel at the time).

At WLIHE we were essentially a teaching-focussed college and part of the London Borough of Hounslow, near Heathrow Airport. Our core business was training teachers, and we taught modular joint degrees and some professional diplomas, but there were some masters and a very few PhD graduates. Some information here. WLIHE had some pretty good professors and research-active people, although not many. There were only a handful of people with British research council and other prestigious grants. Most  research was ranked 1 or 2 in the government assessment, the RAE, in the early 90s (see here, 1 is low, 5 is excellent).  About 70 academics were submitted for assessment, the most being in Allied Health and Geography. Brunel University fared much better as an institution with innovative 4 year ‘sandwich’ degrees, many more students, and a research profile that was medium to excellent in several disciplines.  However WLIHE included some great buildings including a riverside mansion and plenty of Victoriana, while Brunel had its main 1960s concrete campus in far less illustrious Uxbridge, a long walk from the Tube Station.

These factors made it seem for us at WLIHE that a ‘takeover’  by Brunel took place, since Brunel was a much more powerful institution. A small institution was merged with a larger one and later closed. See Brunel’s website, which used to mention the Institute in detail but has subsequently edited this down to scarcely a mention – and the links to the archives don’t work ! (http://www.brunel.ac.uk/about/history). Brunel wanted the student numbers in some of the options that WLIHE offered, and a few of the research-active staff. Most WLIHE staff were in favour of the merger too, since we would become a ‘proper’ university (during my time on the Borough Road campus, after hours work was impossible – the doors were locked at 7pm).  A few took redundancy or retirement, because they felt they could not perform in the conventional university research/teaching environment. WLIHE became Brunel University College under Prof. Eric Billett for 2 years, then BUC was annulled and the the University became multi-campus.

The transition was relatively smooth. The positive side was the increase in status for the WLIHE staff and students, and increased student numbers for Brunel at a time when this was important for funding.  The negatives really came in under the next VC, Stephen Schwartz (2002-2006). He began the process of vacating and then selling off the two WLIHE campuses and ‘consolidating’ at Uxbridge, and by the mid 2000s both WLIHE sites had been sold. He also restructured the university (an earlier restructure had seen some loss of science/engineering departments at Uxbridge about 1996). My former Department,  Geography and Earth Sciences, which had been transferred from WLIHE, was then axed despite a strong campaign to save it. Most of the individual staff were actually saved by Schwartz’s successor and redeployed in other units –  two or three are still employed there, but a number of lynchpin geographers finally took redundancy in 2015. There are not many former WLIHE staff left on the Uxbridge campus.

There are several general lessons.

  1. In a higher education sector merger, jobs may be protected through an agreement; but afterwards, in the merged institution, previous promises are unlikely to be maintained for all that long, unless there are ironclad agreements. Universities are, or are like, businesses.
  2. Similarly, physical building stock; it can be sold  after consolidation and thus be lucrative for the new institution (not sure if this was a merger motivation for Brunel, but we had suspicions at the time). The former Maria Gray riverside campus, comprising a mansion (Gordon House, renamed Richmond House)and other buildings, was sold for many millions. There is a gated housing estate there as well and at Borough Road, a large housing development.
  3. The lesser partner in a merger can effectively disappear after a number of years, existing only on Wikipedia and Facebook, as in WLIHE’s case. Bulmershe College is another example, in Reading – the campus was later abandoned by Reading University, which took it on in 1989.
  4. Merged institutions need not resemble the amalgamated entities at all; the management may try to create something entirely new.

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New synthesis on the field of political ecology

Batterbury, S.P.J. 2015. Doing political ecology inside and outside the academy. In Bryant, R. (ed.) International Handbook of Political Ecology. Edward Elgar. Pp. 27-43.

Abstract

The chapter presents a survey of political ecology (PE) scholarship in, and beyond, academic institutions. This interdisciplinary field makes a contribution to understanding environmental and social justice issues, that require explanations at multiple scales, often challenging powerful state and corporate actors. Radical and critical scholarship like PE survives because of sustained student demand, but in neoliberal universities battling financial shortfalls and sometimes a reluctance to invest in research areas that offer critique of powerful institutions and of injustice. Political ecologists have a substantial presence in North America and Europe, either as individual scholars or in small research clusters, but are found across the world and are networked virtually and through key events and collaborative ventures. Publishing outlets include at least three dedicated journals. The extent to which academic political ecology can, and should, make a contribution to engaged scholarship, stepping beyond the boundaries of academic investigation into the messy world of environmental politics is debated, but embraced by some academics, numerous NGOs, and civil society organizations. The future of the field is assured if environmental despoliation, denial of access to resources, and inequality continues; and if its hopes for better world are not extinguished by much more powerful actors in and outside the university system.

Partial summary

http://www.simonbatterbury.net/pubs/Batterbury%20Doing%20political%20ecology%20inside%20and%20outside%20the%20academy.pdf

On Google Books

https://books.google.com.au/books?id=X45HCgAAQBAJ&pg=PA14&lpg=PA14&dq=international+handbook+of+political+ecology&source=bl&ots=tlqf3rEUSQ&sig=FH4kQ-1uj8f1XLz39QVbn2VQ_As&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CDYQ6AEwBGoVChMIlJiD5-KMyAIVhximCh30BQCn#v=onepage&q=batterbury&f=false

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New article on little-studied region of Grande Terre, New Caledonia

Kowasch M., S.P.J. Batterbury, M. Neumann. 2015. Contested sites, land claims and economic development in Poum, New Caledonia. Settler Colonial Studies 5(4): 302-316.

Abstract

Property relations are often ambiguous in postcolonial settings. Property is only considered as such if socially legitimate institutions sanction it. In indigenous communities, access to natural resources is frequently subject to conflict and negotiation in a ‘social arena’. Settler arrivals and new economic possibilities challenge these norms and extend the arena. The article analyses conflicts and negotiations in the French overseas territory of New Caledonia in the light of its unique settler history and economic activity, focussing on the little-studied remote northern district of Poum on the Caledonian main island Grande Terre. In this region, the descendants of British fishermen intermarried with the majority Kanak clans. We illustrate the interaction between customary conflicts, European settlement, struggles for independence and a desire for economic development. Customary claims are in tension with the attractions of economic growth and service delivery, which has been slow in coming to Poum for reasons largely outside the control of local people.

Draft on Researchgate

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/281372191_Contested_sites_land_claims_and_economic_development_in_Poum_New_Caledonia

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New article on land tenure and community in East Timor

Batterbury S.P.J, L.R.Palmer, T.Reuter, D. do Amaral de Carvalho,  B. Kehi, A. Cullen. 2015. Land access and livelihoods in post-conflict Timor-Leste: no magic bullets. International Journal of the Commons. 9(2): 619-647.

http://www.thecommonsjournal.org/index.php/ijc/article/view/514  (free online)

Abstract

In Timor-Leste, customary institutions contribute to sustainable and equitable rural development and the establishment of improved access to and management of land, water and other natural resources. Drawing on multi-sited empirical research, we argue that the recognition and valorization of custom and common property management is a prerequisite for sustainable and equitable land tenure reform in Timor-Leste. In a four-community study of the relationship between land access and the practice of rural livelihoods in eastern and western districts of Timor-Leste, where customary management systems are dominant, we found different types of traditional dispute resolution, with deep roots in traditional forms of land management and with varying levels of conflict. The article shows how customary land tenure systems have already managed to create viable moral economies. Interviewees expressed a desire for the government to formalize its recognition and support for customary systems and to provide them with basic livelihood support and services. This was more important than instituting private landholding or state appropriation of community lands, which is perceived to be the focus of national draft land laws and an internationally supported project. We suggest ways in which diverse customary institutions can co-exist and work with state institutions to build collective political legitimacy in the rural hinterlands, within the context of upgrading the quality of rural life, promoting social and ecological harmony, and conflict management.

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Birdys in Bath

Our Birdys on Walcot St, Bath, UK, July 2015

No idea why it will not turn!

No idea why it will not turn!

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Simon talks about community bike workshops at 3CR radio, 17 Aug 2015

Talking about community bike workshops at 3CR radio, 17 Aug 2015

http://www.3cr.org.au/yarrabug/episode-201508171000/community-bike-workshops-their-contribution-justice-sustainable-urban

And a talk on 18th Aug 2015

https://events.unimelb.edu.au/events/5600-community-bike-workshops-their-contribution-to-justice-sustainable-urban-transport

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Holy Bagels bike business, Brussels

P1050165I’m living in Brussels, Belgium until June and researching bicycle cultures and workshops (links to our blog).
This an inventive use of bike technology, spotted in the Place Fagey market, Ixcelles (my pic second; first pic source https://leplusbelage.files.wordpress.com). The Holy Bagels rig consists of a cargo bike with a grill and a coffee machine, and a trailer on the back that contains a gas bottle for the grill. There are batteries to power the coffee machine. I see a hub motor on the back of the trailer too (probably not the ideal place for it). I did not see any gears, and I have not seen it in action, but here is a video and it gets towed since it must be a hard pedal. Good coffee and bagels from this mobile family business.

More discussion on another blog here (in french) and photos here. Continue reading

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