News Article

Strategic Inefficiency is Harming the Most Vulnerable Students at King’s

Adjust KCL! are gathering evidence to show that ‘administrative failings’ in support services are not one-off errors and amount to a systemic failure to provide adequate support and reasonable adjustments to vulnerable students.

In an interview with ROAR News, Florian Hansen, the campaign lead for Adjust KCL!, spoke about the horrific impact of ‘strategic inefficiency’ on their life as a PhD student at King’s.


Now, the campaign is looking for any students who have had similar experiences of trying or failing to get adequate support from King’s to share their stories. By making your voices heard and taking collective action, we can and will hold the University to account for the harm done to vulnerable students.


What is ‘strategic inefficiency’?


In her blog Feminist Killjoy, scholar Sara Ahmed uses the term strategic inefficiency to outline how inefficient processes can benefit an organisation by enabling it to ignore or minimise issues and protect itself from having to meaningfully address how its own practices recreate inequalities and injustice. Ahmed notes that failures to provide support and reasonable adjustments to students with additional support needs are often recorded as ‘administrative failings’, but the length, complexity and frequent failings of the processes to access support and adjustments serve the institution well, by making it difficult for those who need the University to adapt to enforce their rights.


“Inequalities are reproduced by the extent to which some people more than others are required to enter administrative processes to acquire what they need to proceed.” – Sara Ahmed


Those students who most often need to access support services, such as students with disabilities, mental health issues, neurodiversity, long-term health conditions or complex needs, are already facing barriers to access their education. They are then faced with the additional barriers of trying to understand how to navigate the support processes in place, advocate for adjustments and support to be put in place and chase up multiple points of contact at the University. When things go wrong, the only way for a student to escalate these issues is through another long, difficult complaints process that leads to further exhaustion and frustration, putting many off from pursuing their needs further.


How does strategic inefficiency show up at King’s?


In Ahmed’s research into strategic inefficiency, “One interviewee described her complaint process as ‘Do-It-Yourself,’ you have to teach yourself the policies, write the documents and ensure they keep moving around because otherwise the process would stall. […] She has to push to get them to meet their deadlines because if they do not meet their deadlines the complaint would not be investigated. To stall or to slow can be to stop.”


Students at King’s report frequent cases of delays in support services and complaints processing, information going missing, services that do not communicate between each other, and staff providing conflicting information. All this requires huge amounts of mental and emotional labour from students who are already having to put in extra work to access their education, and often has the effect of tiring individuals out to the point that they give up on trying to get the reasonable adjustments that should be a minimum requirement for their inclusion and participation in the University.


So, what can we as students do about it?


Adjust KCL! are gathering evidence to show that these ‘administrative failings’ are not one-off errors and instead amount to a systemic failure to provide adequate support and reasonable adjustments to vulnerable students.


We use the term 'vulnerable students' to reflect the wide variety of experiences that might mean a student requires additional support, including but not limited to neurodiversity, disability, mental health, physical health, homelessness, experiences of abuse or other crimes, financial hardship and bereavement.


If these experiences sound all too familiar to you, we would love you to share your experience and get more involved in our campaign by filling out this short survey. We know how frustrating it can be to have to retell these experiences repeatedly, but by taking collective action as students we can and will hold the University to account.


Please note, this survey will be used to build evidence and relationships that will strengthen our campaign, not to provide support with your individual situation. You can get individual support from a trained caseworker, including support with accessing support services and making complaints and appeals, from KCLSU Advice.


If you don’t share these experiences but would like to show your support and receive email updates from the campaign, sign the petition here.


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