Nightmare scenarios

November 3, 2011

Using fiction to satirise perceptions of the current state of the academy seems to be gaining in popularity ("This REF is a deadly serious undertaking", 20 October). A couple of years ago we had the anonymously penned A Campus Conspiracy, and last year Crump by P.J. Vanston: both are based on recognisable reality.

Indeed, the eponymous hero of Crump occupies an office very similar to the one in which I sit at the former Royal Naval College and has the same view. The University of Greenwich is renamed "Thames Metropolitan University" and its vice-chancellor is "Baroness Bloodstone", but that hardly conceals the referents and raises some scepticism about the book's disclaimer that any resemblance to real people or places is coincidental. We can only hope that there is more force in its disclaimer over events...

In both books, management incompetence is a key narrative feature: in Crump's case, it is political correctness (the use of "niggardly" is banned because it might be misheard or misunderstood); in A Campus Conspiracy, an ageing academic is "encouraged" to take early retirement (tempting, if only to escape the lack of support from service professionals) thanks to false accusations of sexual harassment made by an obnoxious benefactor's student daughter.

Both scenarios are subjected to a reductio ad absurdum treatment similar to that seen in Tom Sharpe's Wilt. The dystopian possibilities will not be alien to current staff: we must hope they remain the stuff of nightmares.

Ian McNay, Professor emeritus, higher education and management, University of Greenwich

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns