Laurie Taylor – 23 February 2017

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

February 23, 2017
Business people running through field
Source: Getty/Alamy montage

Fit for purpose

“It’s yet another major development in academic testing!”

That was how Jamie Targett, our Director of Corporate Affairs, greeted the appointment last week of our very first Campus Fitness Manager.

Targett admitted that competition for the post had been fierce but in the end the appointments committee had unanimously decided to offer the post to “Joey” Johnson on the grounds that although he lacked any formal qualifications and had never held any other responsible position, he had an excellent reference from Dr Gradgrind of the private for-profit University of Coketown.

“Joey” has already got down to work. He told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that in the next few weeks he would be introducing a brand new fitness exercise framework that would “separate the sheep from the goats”.

“What exactly will be tested in this brand new framework?” asked our reporter.

“It’s quite straightforward really,” explained Joey. “All serving Poppleton academics will be required to run as far as they can in any direction of their own choosing. After they’ve finally come to a halt, their results will be assessed, and on the basis of that assessment, they will be awarded gold, silver or bronze medals.”

But how would it be possible to generate any clear-cut results from what would necessarily be an extraordinarily diverse set of performances?

“No problem at all,” explained Joey. “We will be relying on a fine new set of metrics. In the first place, we will ask all those who observe the runners in action to award marks to those academics who run in very simple straight lines with a smile on their face and who occasionally pause to hand out sweets to spectators.”

“But isn’t this metric in danger of measuring the runners’ personal popularity rather than their skill at running?” wondered Ponting.

“That’s why we have two other critical metrics,” explained Joey. “We’ll also be finding out exactly where the runners ended up. Did they get as far as Upper Poppleton or Lower Poppleton? It’s what we call the ‘final destination’ metric.”

And the other metric?

“We had a bit of good luck here,” explained Joey. “There were a few meaningless hoops left over from the research excellence framework and we’ll be asking academics to complete their fitness programme by showing their relative willingness to jump through them.”

But wasn’t there a chance that the majority of academics would regard the entire fitness excellence framework as an absurd waste of time, money and effort? Surely that could jeopardise the entire assessment project?

“Not at all,” explained Joey. “The latest comprehensive survey in Times Higher Education reveals that only 4 per cent of academics believe that the TEF will accurately assess teaching quality. Has that in any way affected its adoption by every university in the country? Of course not.”

At this point in the interview, Mr Johnson excused himself as he had an urgent appointment with a mock turtle.

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