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Short shrift from staff for Queen Mary’s short form

Implementation of QML abbreviation delayed while opposing academics are consulted

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Zero tolerance: Queen Mary staff irked by ‘ill-thought-out’ name change

It was a branding coup that was lauded by Poppleton University’s PR gurus, but it seems that staff are less pleased by their university’s moniker makeover.

Just two weeks after Queen Mary University of London’s shift from QMUL to QML was saluted as “revolutionary” by The Poppletonian, the university announced that it had “paused” the implementation of the new abbreviation after opposition from academics.

In an email to staff, Queen Mary principal Simon Gaskell said he wanted to give people the chance to “share their views” on the adoption of QML. The consultation exercise was expected to finish on 1 April.

The change of abbreviation followed “perceptions research” carried out in 2011, which found “three-letter abbreviations are easier to remember than four (unless they spell something phonetic)”, according to a letter sent to staff.

Having QML as a “consistent descriptor” would also remove the confusion over the different shorthand versions of Queen Mary currently in use, which include QM, QMUL, QMU, QMW and QMWC, the letter adds.

But the sudden change to QML, which was due to replace QMUL on the university’s email handle by the end of March, was not a hit with many staff.

“Most people feel somewhat bemused by the whole thing,” said one academic at the institution, which also recently dropped the comma in its name before “University of London”. “Queen Mary has an identity crisis – it has had so many name changes no one can remember what it’s called.

“But changing our name again hardly seems like a sensible solution to this problem,” she added.

Some staff were also annoyed by the lack of staff consultation over the QML move, she said, whereas others saw it as a “silly, ill thought-through attempt” by senior management to emulate Russell Group competitors such as LSE and UCL.

In his letter to staff, Professor Gaskell said: “With hindsight, I should have initiated [consultation] earlier.” But he hoped discussion would continue in the “largely collegial spirit of the debate thus far”.

A Queen Mary spokeswoman said there is currently no official abbreviation used to describe the institution, with QMUL and QM “used most frequently internally and externally”, and both QMU and QMC also “popular”.

“Stakeholder perceptions research we commissioned suggested that external stakeholders found QMUL difficult to use and remember and that it was rarely recognised as referring to Queen Mary University of London,” she added.

“Following an extended period of discussion and testing, the decision was taken to adopt the short name of QML as this addressed the issue of utility but was still directly aligned with our full name Queen Mary University of London, which remains unchanged.”

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

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Readers' comments (1)

  • One gets the impression that the QM(U)L staff''s view of their own management would include a number of highly memorable four-letter 'phonetics'. Perhaps they should change the name completely to something matching the acronymic initials of one of those?

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