“Hurrah for David Cameron.”
That was how Janet Fluellen, our Director of Curriculum Development, responded to the prime minister’s praise for such so-called “Mickey Mouse” degrees as Golf Course Management that helped people into real jobs.
Ms Fluellen said that she hoped that Mr Cameron’s words would silence the criticism that has been directed at Poppleton’s groundbreaking BA in Barista Studies. “At the moment,” she said, “it is commonplace to go into a branch of Caffè Nero or Costa Coffee and find you are being served by a ‘trainee barista’.” Such designations, said Ms Fluellen, should soon become a thing of the past as fully trained Poppleton Barista graduates began to take their place behind the counters of coffee bars around the country. “You could”, said Ms Fluellen, “describe Mr Cameron’s words as very much an extra shot in the arm for Barista Studies.”
Include me out
A rapidly convened meeting of research staff listened in stunned silence yesterday as Gerald Thudd, our Head of Research Impact, issued a stern warning about the need to regard the research excellence framework with “renewed seriousness”.
Mr Thudd admitted that the REF had been undermined by the brazen duplicity of those universities that had hired in extra research staff on very short-term contracts. He also allowed that the framework’s value had been further tarnished by those universities that had employed PR staff to “inflate” the impact aspect of their research submissions.
But he believed that the case of Derek Sayer, a professor at Lancaster University who has appealed against his inclusion in the REF to demonstrate the wholly inadequate manner in which some of his colleagues’ work had been deemed inadmissible, was very close to “the last straw”.
“We live in dangerous times for the REF,” Mr Thudd concluded. “There is only one way forward. All those who believe in this mechanism, who value the enormous amount of time and money and gradgrindery that has gone into its construction, must rise up and declare their support. They must stand up and shout: ‘Isn’t it grand? Isn’t it fine? Look at the cut, the style, the line!’ ”
In response to questions from the floor, Mr Thudd denied that he was old or incessantly stood on his head.
One of our most distinguished research academics, Dr Piercemüller of the Department of Media and Cultural Studies, has leapt to the defence of Tony Gallagher, pro vice-chancellor and professor of education at Queen’s University Belfast.
Speaking by Skype from his research base, Dr Piercemüller said it was “disgraceful” that Professor Gallagher had been criticised for “the quite understandable mistake” of referencing a book co‑edited by himself that was later shown not to exist.
“One hopes”, he said, “that this is not the beginning of an essentialist approach to publishing. My own curriculum vitae currently includes two important books that are ‘in press’, three that are ‘in preparation’ and another half-dozen that are very much ‘in mind’. Any suggestion that these are non-existent would strike any proper scholar as a blatant example of misplaced empiricism.”
Maureen, the Departmental Secretary in the Department of Media and Cultural Studies who took the call from Dr Piercemüller, said she did not know his location but thought she had glimpsed “palm trees in the background”.
Thought for the week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
Ms Doubleday is currently undergoing “re-birthing” therapy. She hopes to be delivered in good time for next week’s column.