Best at nothing - again

December 8, 2011

For the seventh year in a row, our university failed to win a single award of any kind at the Times Higher Education Awards in London's luxurious Grosvenor House Hotel.

Despite entering in a record number of categories - Best Innovative Management Leadership Award, Best Communicative Strategy Going Forward Award, Best Coordinated Academic Staff Restructuring Award and Best Use of Recycling Bins Award - Poppleton failed to secure a single nomination from the judges.

However, our vice-chancellor, who, together with 43 other senior administrators, somehow found time to attend the ceremony, claimed that there was "nothing to worry about" in Poppleton's poor showing. He pointed out that although our university had not been represented on stage at the awards, its massive presence at the cash bar had ensured it a high degree of name recognition. ("Same again for you, vice-chancellor?")

Always look on the grant side of life

Our Senior Director of Fundraising, Gerald Lockheed, has warned against the dangers of a "witch-hunt" following the publication of Lord Woolf's "damning" report into the links between the London School of Economics and Libya's now deposed Gaddafi dictatorship.

Mr Lockheed recently returned from an "exploratory fundraising tour" of North Korea, during which he dispensed several Poppleton doctorates to the sons of leading politicians. He said he agreed with Joanna Motion, a partner at fundraising consultants More Partnership, who in the wake of the Woolf report warned that "ruling out vast swathes of the world" as unacceptable for donations was like "pulling the duvet over your head".

"I'd also add", said Mr Lockheed, "that only those with a duvet over their heads could possibly be blind to the democratising effect of fund-giving - the extraordinary manner in which repressive regimes suddenly turn out to be far more liberal than one ever suspected once they have passed over a very large cheque."

I'll do the talking

"Dangerously out of touch." That was how Jamie Targett, our thrusting Director of Corporate Affairs, reacted to the recent assertion by academic Edith Hall that "university leaders...used to have sufficient courage of their speak to the public for themselves without employing 'directors of communication'".

Mr Targett said it was "hardly a coincidence" that Professor Hall had, until her principled resignation over an impending subject merger, been professor of Classics and English at Royal Holloway, University of London.

"This", he said, "is very much what you would expect from someone who has spent a lifetime studying what are essentially old things."

"What Professor Hall doesn't seem to appreciate", he continued, "is that today's academics are far too busy producing evidence that they are fulfilling their proper functions to have any time left over for anything resembling a conviction. And that is where the directors of communication come in.

"Their specific and indispensable skill is to be able to speak with an extremely high degree of 'conviction' about nothing whatsoever."

Thought for the Week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

Many apologies for omitting details of the vegetarian option in the menu for this year's academic Christmas dinner. This should have read as follows:

Standard Menu

Parsnip soup with crusty croutons

Free range roast Norfolk bronze turkey with sprouts and potatoes

Vegetarian Option Menu

Parsnip soup with crusty croutons

Sprouts and potatoes

I hope this clarifies the situation.

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