Fourth Degree by Laurie Taylor – 22 November 2018

All campus life is here

十一月 22, 2018
Ball and chain
Source: Getty

Cry Freedom!

Laurie Taylor reports

One of our leading universities is to sever its historical links with the slave trade.

A spokeswoman for the university, who requested anonymity for her institution, explained that the decision had been made because of a growing sense among academic staff that it was inappropriate for a progressive university not to acknowledge the manner in which it had significantly benefited from a practice that demeaned, impoverished and humiliated a significant section of the human race.

She was therefore delighted to announce that as from January 2019, the hourly rate paid to the university’s graduate teaching assistants would be raised by 50p to £12.50 an hour.

In response to questions, the spokeswoman confirmed that the university would also be demonstrating its newfound commitment to liberality by adopting methods of ensuring the loyalty of its graduate assistants other than the traditional leg irons.

Blinded by the screens

Following the complaint from Roger Kneebone, Imperial College London’s professor of surgical education, that students now spend so much of their time in front of screens that they are no longer capable of stitching up a patient, there comes news of similar failings in other disciplines.

Dr Giles Blackthorn, head of forest ecology at the University of Old Sarum, reports that many of his current students are so committed to their screens that they are no longer able to see the wood for the trees, while even more disturbingly, Dr Jean Poole, head of zoology at the University College of Plumstead, reports that a significant proportion of her current students repeatedly fail to spot the elephant in the room.

Are you working in a failing university?

At September’s Labour Party conference, Adam Tickell, vice-chancellor of the University of Sussex, spoke openly of “well-founded” rumours of a university “teetering on the edge”. Might this be your own beloved institution?

With the assistance of a former management consultant to British Home Stores, we have compiled the following checklist.

1. Your vice-chancellor has not been seen in public since Shrove Tuesday.

2. Despite the clement weather, a large black cloud continues to hover over the departments of English and history.

3. Significant numbers of rats have been seen fleeing the department of experimental psychology.

4. Your principal overseas campus has recently been designated “a war zone”.

5. Your medical centre reports a dramatic increase in the number of students suffering from a fear of open spaces.

6. There are unconfirmed rumours that an underground tunnel is being constructed by members of the Finance Office.

 How did your university rate?

Two of the above: Trembling
Three of the above: Teetering
More than three of the above: Already toppling

Letters to the Editor

Dear Sir or Madam

The students’ union at my university recently decided to “no platform” a speaker who had been booked to speak on the subject of no platforming. Does this constitute grounds for concern?

Yours sincerely

The Editor responds:

Thank you so much for your interesting letter. I very much regret that my answer to your question has been no platformed. 

Dear Sir or Madam

Since I began to make filmed versions of my second-year lectures available online, I can’t help but notice that the attendance at my actual lectures has become almost negligible. What do you advise? 

The Editor responds:

Although it is somewhat dispiriting to find that there are so few students now attending your actual lectures, you may find some comfort in the well-substantiated reports that even fewer students are likely to be watching the filmed version.

Positions Vacant

Following the declaration by the UK’s universities minister Sam Gyimah that universities failing to tackle grade inflation could be marked down in the teaching excellence framework, we are seeking to appoint a number of external examiners who specialise in the ancient art of “marking down”. Successful applicants will be able to tell the difference between a marginal lower second and a starred first, possess a deep scepticism about the provenance of medical notes, and have a proven capacity to resist the blandishments of an expensive examiners’ dinner.

Please apply in the usual manner, marking your applications “Gradgrind”.

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