Keep on dancing!
One of the year’s most glamorous social occasions, the Russell Group’s Christmas Ball, was fatally disrupted this year by some alarming news.
All had been as normal for most of the evening. The champagne and fine wine had flowed freely as the beautifully accoutred elite guests and their partners danced the night away to the strict tempo music provided by Wendy Piatt and the Privileges.
Everywhere one looked there was university stardust. Relative newcomers to the Russell Group such as York and Durham and Queen Mary danced happily alongside such elegant and aristocratic old timers as Birmingham, Southampton, Warwick and Leeds.
However, even as the dancers whirled, an ugly rumour began spreading throughout the ballroom. According to this rumour, the majority of these glamorous Russell Group dancers were nothing of the sort. Their top A-level dresses and suits and their casual air of research grant superiority may have suggested they were truly a different species from the rag, tag and bobtail of the rest of the university sector, but according to the rumour, most of the Russell Group dancers were, in a phrase, “all fur coat and no knickers”.
What fuelled this rumour was exacting research carried out by Vikki Boliver, senior lecturer in sociology and social policy at Durham University, research that clearly showed that nearly all of the present Russell Group members, in terms of research income and admissions standards, had more in common with other pre-92 universities than with the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.
In Dr Boliver’s disturbing words: “The Russell Group features so prominently in the discourse about what it means to be a top university and [it has] been very successful at marketing that brand, but that’s not borne out by the evidence.” As this appalling news spread around the ballroom, distraught guests were forced to recognise that their true partners were not Oxford and Cambridge at all but such previously patronised higher education institutions as Birkbeck, Aberdeen, Loughborough and the Royal Veterinary College.
The effect upon the ball was catastrophic. As the final chimes of midnight rang out and Wendy Piatt and the Privileges struck up the familiar Russell Group anthem, No Time for Losers, these previously “elite” but now shockingly unfrocked universities shuffled dismally from the room, leaving the dance floor completely free for a final selective Oxbridge pas de deux.
Thought for the week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
As most academics will know, the time has come to move away from the crass limitations of the LGBT abbreviation (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) and adopt the more comprehensive acronym QUILTBAG (Queer/Questioning, Undecided, Intersex, Lesbian, Transgender/Transsexual, Bisexual, Allied/Asexual and Gay/Gender Queer).
I’m delighted to announce that the Personal Development Centre will be marking this important move with a series of seminars devoted to an understanding of each of the QUILTBAG categories.
The opening seminar in the series will take place on Wednesday or Thursday or Friday next week at around about 7pm or possibly earlier or even later in a place to be announced and will consider the category “Undecided”.