Laurie Taylor – 2 June 2016

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

June 2, 2016
Group of businesspeople sat around pile of cardboard boxes
Source: Getty
The Hefce approach to transparency

Don’t look now

Something of a precedent was set this Tuesday when a senior Poppleton manager chose to answer allegations of management misconduct from inside a large cardboard box.

We learn that the use of the box was prompted by the recent Higher Education Funding Council for England decision not to publish the names of universities where staff had helped to inflate course ratings on the National Student Survey because any such publication would, in Hefce’s considered view, open up those institutions “to public gaze”.

Our Director of Corporate Affairs, Jamie Targett, told The Poppletonian that he hoped Hefce’s understandable concern to keep evidence of university duplicity well away from the public gaze would now extend to other areas of university misconduct. This might necessitate an increased use of dark glasses and cardboard boxes by senior managers but would also ensure that a heavy veil could at last be drawn across our vice-chancellor’s annual emolument.

(Next week: Does the news that some academics colluded with students in order to inflate course ratings on the NSS in any way suggest that similar attempts might be made when NSS scores are used to determine the fees that a university may charge?

Also next week: “Is the Pope a Catholic?”)

Tricks of the trade

“Academics will find a way!”

That was how Ted Chippings, our Head of TEF Submissions, responded to criticism of the metrics that will be used to assess university teaching.

“Let’s face it,” said Mr Chippings, “when the research excellence framework was introduced there was a widespread feeling among thoughtful academics that it was a wholly inadequate way of measuring the multifaceted nature of research. But within a short time, many of those same academics were happily jettisoning long-term meaningful research in favour of the frenetic production of second-rate insubstantial journal articles.”

He predicted that academics would respond in a similar fashion to the teaching excellence framework. “This time, they are faced with a wholly inadequate way of measuring the multifaceted nature of teaching. But once again, criticism will fade away as dons rise to the challenge and learn how best to use this brand new set of inadequate metrics to their own advantage.”

It was, insisted Mr Chippings, an exciting prospect. “Thanks to the very inadequacies of the REF and the TEF we are nurturing a generation of academics whose capacity as skilled game players and serial confabulators make them ideally suited to that brave new academic world in which metrics will finally be fully liberated from that which they originally claimed to measure.”

After all these years

Birthday greetings to Professor L. E. G. Mould of our Department of Physics, who will be celebrating his 101st birthday next Thursday in the upstairs room of the Horse and Groom, Middle Poppleton.

Professor Mould, one of the many Poppleton dons who took advantage of the “retire and return” option, told reporter Keith Ponting (30) that although the modern physics obsession with proton smashing was not exactly his “cup of tea”, he still very much enjoyed “pottering around”.

Did he have any plans to do any teaching or research or administration in the near future?

“Not really,” admitted Professor Mould. “When I’m on campus I tend to concentrate on keeping my head down. That way I can consistently avoid the high-velocity bullets being fired from the Admin Building.”

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