Fourth Degree by Laurie Taylor – 24 January 2019

All campus life is here

一月 24, 2019
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Teaching-only traumas

Laurie Taylor reports

West Bedfordshire University College has established a Teaching-Only Therapeutic Centre. According to its head, Dr Geoffrey Lamark, the new centre is a direct response to the increasing number of serving academics who have been branded “teaching-only’ because of fears that their inadequate research record might have a negative impact in the 2021 research excellence framework.

“Obviously,” explained Dr Lamark, “it would have been preferable if these research-poor dons had accepted the sort of severance payments and early retirement inducements that currently constitute a major financial outlay at such leading universities as Durham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Southampton. But when academics refuse to accept the human resources shilling and are sentenced to teaching-only status, someone has to pick up the pieces.”

Dr Lamark insisted that such remedial work could not be entirely left to new therapeutic centres, however. Universities themselves needed to play a part: “Here at West Bedfordshire, for example, management has made a brave start by allowing teaching-only staff to dispense with their traditional striped uniforms.”

Me. Myself. And I.

We regret to report the tragic death of one of mid-Leicestershire’s leading political scientists.

Dr Dennis Rutter of the University College of Melton Mowbray was an acknowledged expert on the theory and practice of the Irish backstop and a leading advocate of lecture capture. Not only did he arrange for all his lectures to be filmed but he also followed the recent advice of Emily Nordmann, lecturer in psychology at the University of Glasgow, and routinely used lecture capture as a way of reviewing his own performance.

It now appears that during one such period of extended self--examination, Dr Rutter became so entranced by one or other aspect of his own performance that he toppled forward into his domestic VCR and was summarily electrocuted.

A spokesperson for the University College of Melton Mowbray described attempts to impose a mythical interpretation upon Dr Rutter’s “tragic demise” as “insensitive”.

Psychologists refuse to confess

“It’s a fair cop! My 2016 article in the British Journal of Experimental Psychology on the capacity of laboratory rats to solve ‘fiendish’ sudoku puzzles was indeed a load of cobblers.”

How many psychologists would be prepared to make similar confessions about the inadequacy of their past work? That was the critical question posed by the Loss-of-Confidence Project, a recent inquiry into the integrity of psychologists led by academics at eight institutions in Europe, North America and Asia.

Unfortunately, the very low number of such confessions submitted to the project led its manager, Julia Rohrer of Berlin’s International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course, to claim that there was a gap between psychologists’ ideals and their actual behaviour.

These results seem to complement the 2015 study that found that less than half of prominent psychology experiments could be replicated. However, one leading psychologist, Dr Fritz Itzig of the University College of Utrecht, told Fourth Degree that they did little to undermine the significance of psychology as an undergraduate degree. “Let’s face it, an ability to construct and disseminate convincing untruths can be seen as a positive skill,” he said. “It is an invaluable asset for those intending to enter political life or embark on a career in airline scheduling.”

News in brief

Leading figures at the University of Hull have responded vigorously to philosophers like Julian Baggini, who publicly criticised the university’s recent deliberations over whether to close its philosophy department.

One senior manager who pleaded for anonymity blamed the development on environmental factors that were unique to Hull.

“It’s bad enough having a major bridge that leads to nowhere. Who on earth wants an academic discipline with a similar trajectory!”


The news that a growing number of university students are supplementing their income by turning to sex work has led to concern that marks may have been inappropriately raised for the increasing number of final year students who claim to have been “under the doctor”.

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