Our university has been widely praised for its pioneering attempts to introduce more diversity into its undergraduate courses. Poppleton was, for example, the first university in the country to include the practice of dowsing in its archaeology degree and to supplement its astronomy degree with a second-year course on the signs of the zodiac.
But not all such innovations have enjoyed unqualified success. Last week, a group of undergraduates on the BA theology course announced that, although they welcomed the presence of Satanism in their curriculum, they were deeply distressed by what they described as the course’s reliance upon an “outmoded model of Satan”.
A spokesperson for the group explained that the course’s depiction of Satan as a scary-looking goat-like beast was ideologically at odds with the contemporary view that Satan had been the unfortunate victim of just such negative stereotyping.
However, our Director of Curriculum Development, Janet Fluellen, defended the exclusion of such new knowledge from ongoing degrees. “Students about to embark upon their Satanism exams”, she warned, “should bear in mind that in general it is better to stick with the Devil they know.”
Which university houses the most rebels?
That is the intriguing question raised by the revelation that University College London and the University of Essex have simultaneously adopted the slogan “Rebels with a cause” to characterise the distinctive nature of their institutional offering.
Our own Deputy Director of Logo Development, Roger Placement, said that he found the Essex use of the slogan particularly interesting. “After all, only a university without any sense of irony could possibly boast about currently housing ‘rebels with a cause’, when just such rebels formerly organised major sit-ins and occupations over chemical weapons and the war in Vietnam, marched en masse to the vice-chancellor’s lakeside residence, and declared the campus ‘a free university’.”
Mr Placement denied that the adoption of these radical slogans by UCL and Essex would in any way impinge upon our own university’s recent decision to stress its rebellious nature with the slogan: “Two. Four. Six. Eight. Poppleton’s the Place to Graduate”.
In these competitive times it is unusual for vice-chancellors to find common ground. But this week our own vice-chancellor has warmly praised Patrick Johnston, the vice-chancellor of Queen’s-University Belfast.
He told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that he had first come to respect Mr Johnston earlier this year when he had justified a number of severe cuts to Queen’s undergraduate courses by arguing that “society doesn’t need a 21-year-old that’s a sixth century historian”.
Although public pressure had eventually prompted Mr Johnston to apologise for his remark, our vice-chancellor said that he was delighted to see that this had by no means deterred him from radical action.
“In his 2016 statement”, our vice-chancellor reminded Ponting, “Mr Johnston also asserted that the sort of 21-year-old graduate who is really needed is someone who ‘really understands how to analyse things…and someone who has the potential to drive society forward’. Last Friday, he showed his continued commitment to this belief by closing down his university’s sociology degree.”
“It very much reminds me”, said our vice-chancellor, “of my own brave decision to close down our philosophy department on the grounds that what society now needs is graduates who can think for themselves.”