Laurie Taylor – 1 October 2015

The official weekly newsletter of the University of Poppleton. Finem respice!

十月 1, 2015
Woman wearing red catsuit
Source: Alamy/iStock montage
Does my hippocampus look big in this?

Brains trussed

Our university is leading the way in devising new methods of measuring teaching efficiency for the forthcoming teaching excellence framework (TEF).

Only last week, Dr Ted Thorndike of our Department of Psychology introduced his Metbox, the wooden shed-like construction that dramatically reduced the number of variables that typically interfere with an objective assessment of a lecture’s true value (eg, smiling, eye contact, empathy with audience).

But now, our Head of Neuroscience Dr Patricia Loab has claimed that the key element to measure in the new TEF is not teaching performance but “learning gain”: the degree to which each individual student has intellectually advanced over their course.

In her scheme, all new undergraduates at Poppleton would undergo a structural MRI that would establish the amount of grey matter in their respective hippocampi. A further MRI test on graduation would establish the extent to which this volume of grey matter had burgeoned. Departments could then be precisely graded in terms of their neuronal outcome.

But an early critic of the scheme, Mr Ted Odgers of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies, pointed out that the amount of student grey matter might well have increased over the three years only because it now had to accommodate detailed and voluminous evidence of the folie de grandeur of the average neuroscientist.

Branding room only

Poppleton’s Deputy Head of Brand Management, Georgina Edsel, has described a recent article in Times Higher Education on marketing techniques as “backward looking”.

She particularly objected to the manner in which its author, Philip Moriarty, professor of physics at the University of Nottingham, threw doubt on the importance of a university cultivating its brand image.

Without such vital work, claimed Ms Edsel, Poppleton would not have been so readily recognised in a recent marketing survey that asked respondents to “select the university” from the following list of brands:

Frank Cooper’s Original Oxford Marmalade
Marmite Yeast Extract
Pledge Multi-Surface Furniture Polish
Taylors of Harrogate Yorkshire Tea

Early results showed that 90 per cent of respondents chose “Poppleton” as “the university”. “This is a major tribute to our branding work,” said Ms Edsel. “Only a year ago, 24 per cent of those surveyed thought it was multi-surface furniture polish.”

When is a door not a door?

In last week’s Poppletonian we reported on the Open University’s decision to close all but two of its remaining regional centres in England, a move that leaves about 500 staff facing a choice of relocating or leaving.

In the course of this report we outlined the manner in which this decision would dramatically reduce the opportunity for students to meet a tutor in person and suggested that the institution might now seriously consider changing its title to the Half-Closed University.

Following representations from the Open University, we now recognise that this was a pejorative formulation and that we might more reasonably have described the newly constituted institution as the Half-Open University. We apologise for any distress our original article may have caused.

Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

Have the recent revelations about David Cameron aroused any concerns that your own future career might be jeopardised by the news that you used drugs at university? Then you should attend our special “Marijuana Clinic”, which will be held some day or other this week or next at whatever time you can make it.



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