Noli me tangere
“This is a welcome acknowledgement of students’ capacity to make their own decisions.”
That was how Nancy Harbinger, our Deputy Head of Student Experience, responded to the recent assertion by Bruce Macfarlane, professor of higher education at the University of Southampton, that “students are adults and should have the freedom to learn in the way that suits them best”.
“That freedom”, Ms Harbinger told our reporter Keith Ponting (30), “should, as Professor Macfarlane makes clear, include a decision not to turn up for lectures. After all, as he also points out, students can obtain highly satisfactory degrees without attending more than a couple of lectures.
“In fact,” said Ms Harbinger, “there is good evidence that Poppleton students who attend hardly any lectures or seminars or tutorials during their three years go on to achieve higher grades than their more conscientious peers.”
Might this suggest, asked Ponting, “that undergraduates were best served by reducing their degree of contact with Poppleton academics”?
“I’ve no wish to lay down the law,” said Ms Harbinger. “But as a general rule, the further away the better.”
Measuring the unmeasurable?
Is it possible to measure management?
That is the question raised by recent arguments that university administrative staff should be subject to the type of assessment that has become the lot of their academic colleagues.
Foremost among the advocates of a Management Excellent Framework (MEF) is Ted Odgers of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies.
Odgers took time off from expelling crypto-Blairites from the Poppleton branch of the University and College Union to explain the reasons behind his advocacy.
“Why should every aspect of an academic’s performance be subject to assessment while over there in the refurbished Administrative Block they can go on increasing their numbers and their so-called functions without any checks whatsoever? If a university is deemed to be second-rate, that conclusion is based on its teaching and research. Nobody ever considers that a university’s failure might be down to the fact that it is being managed by people who couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery.”
However, Mr Odgers’ argument for an MEF was dismissed as “unreasonable” by Jamie Targett, our Director of Corporate Affairs.
“Although Poppleton administrative staff might not immediately be able to organise a piss-up in a brewery, they would certainly be able to solutionise the cross-platform initiatives that would facilitate the exploitation of the synergistic incentives to personal inebriation going forward.”
One of your five a day
Should universities assess an applicant’s personality before deciding to hire them?
That is the question prompted by a new study of 535 researchers in the Netherlands that revealed that a significant minority admitted to severe misconduct such as deleting or changing data to confirm a hypothesis. The co-author of the study argued that personality testing might be the only way to prevent such “bad apples” from entering the system.
However, Brian Bryan, our Deputy Head of REF Strategy, doubted the value of such tests. “All our bad research apples started off as perfectly sound apples but then felt the need to become a quite different sort of apple in order to meet the demands of the REF.”
So, did this suggest that there were currently one or two bad apples in the Poppleton system?
“There is too much talk of bad apples,” said Mr Bryan. “In the Poppleton research context, we now prefer the rather less personalised term ‘rotten orchard’.”