THE Scholarly Web - 3 April 2014

Weekly transmissions from the blogosphere

April 3, 2014

What’s your #UniNumber? That is to say, how many universities in the UK have you visited?

For Paul Wakeling (@pbjwakeling), senior lecturer in education at the University of York, the question was weighing so heavily on his mind that he took to his blog, The Elbow Patch, to work it out. It turns out that he has been to 56 of the UK’s institutions, and he wants to visit the rest, too.

“The term ‘completist’ was introduced to me by the track Tonight Matthew, I’m Going to be With Jesus from Half Man Half Biscuit’s album, Voyage to the Bottom of the Road,” writes Dr Wakeling. “The protagonist…is leaving behind his former existence as a ‘Factory completist’ – i.e. someone whose aim it is to collect the entire output of the Factory record label (and not some technical shop floor function, like machinist, as I’d assumed).”

Dr Wakeling goes on to declare that he is “coming clean as a campus completist”, and that his aim is to have visited every UK university at least once by the time he retires.

“Think of it as higher education’s version of the urge to visit all of the grounds in the football league,” he says. “So far, all of the visits have happened as part of my job or while I happened to be passing – I haven’t gone anywhere with the sole aim of visiting the university. It looks like I’ll have to do that eventually to get around Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in particular.”

Although clearly a work in progress, challengers began to gather on Twitter. A gauntlet had been thrown down. Could anyone top Dr Wakeling’s collection of 56?

“Easy 63 without effort,” tweeted Anthony Finkelstein (@profserious), professor of software systems engineering and dean of engineering, University College London, before education lawyer Smita Jamdar (@smitajamdar) stole the top spot with an impressive 67. Her reign was short-lived, however, as David Kernohan (@dkernohan), who works on Jisc’s eLearning innovation team, declared: “At a quick glance, I’m on about 70.”

In an internal Times Higher Education battle, deputy news editor John Morgan (@JMorganTHE) was edged out by reporter Jack Grove (@jgro_the) by a score of 52 to 51 – despite Dr Morgan’s rule-bending inclusion of 20 overseas institutions in his tally. Bournemouth University’s policy and public affairs officer Joe Oliver (@joe_oliver) then chipped in with “50 to 60” – as long as student union bars count, he added.

At this point, the big hitters started to play. Sally Brown (@ProfSallyBrown), emeritus professor at Leeds Metropolitan University and a higher education consultant, led the way for a while with 109, just pipping former head of the 1994 Group Alex Bols (@alexbols), who claimed 108.

It looked as though Professor Brown would take the title, before former National Union of Students president Aaron Porter (@AaronPorter) did his maths, revealing that he had visited 125.

“My favourite campus…(so far) is Stirling, and the most impressive building is the Founder’s Building (at Egham, Royal Holloway),” he writes on his eponymous blog.

“I am genuinely intrigued if there is anyone who has been to a greater number, and whether I can find an excuse to visit the remaining 18.”

Can anyone beat him?

Send links to topical, insightful and quirky online comment by and about academics to chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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