Bouncing back

April 3, 2014

One of our university’s leading physicists, Dr Helen Robards, has entered the debate about student loan repayments.

Dr Robards told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that her interest was prompted by the news that the proportion of loan write-offs had now reached 45 per cent, just below the 48.6 per cent figure that would mean that the new loan regime was now costing the taxpayer more than the old system of direct grants.

But what focused her scientific interest was the assertion by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, that no one should therefore write off his loans policy because such write-off figures tended to “bounce around”.

Dr Robards told Ponting that she had spent some years studying the phenomenon of “bounce” using the Coefficient of Restitution (CoR), in which CoR equals the relative speed after the bounce over the relative speed before the bounce took place.

However, Mr Willetts’ “bounce” failed to fit any known value of CoR in that the size of the student loan write-off figure had continued to move inexorably upwards towards that 48.6 per cent figure.

If this did indeed constitute evidence of “bounce”, then, argued Dr Robards, Mr Willetts might well be advised in future “to avoid any unsupervised use of a trampoline”.


You’re foreign? Just sign here

“What is the value of pro vice-chancellors? Do these quasi-academic figures have any place in a goal-oriented university going forward?”

This was the reaction of Jamie Targett, our Director of Corporate Affairs, to the recent assertion by Nigel Healey, pro vice-chancellor for internationalisation at Nottingham Trent University, that in “many cases” universities were recruiting “large numbers of international students of increasingly poor quality in terms of language ability”. Such students were being used as “cash cows”.

Targett told The Poppletonian that Professor Healey’s remarks were “deeply misleading”. For while it was true that Poppleton had recently recruited very large numbers of functionally illiterate but financially viable overseas students, it had done so to enhance its “international ambience”, an ambition also exemplified by its decision to open new campuses in Pyongyang, Turkmenabat and Gomorrah.

However, Targett was unable to comment on Professor Healey’s suggestion that such courting of overseas money might lead a university to forget its “very different mission” as he had “temporarily forgotten” the precise nature of that mission.


Love me. Love my absence

One of our leading research-leave academics, Dr Piercemüller, has claimed to be making “an invaluable” contribution to the teaching evaluation component of the National Student Survey.

In an email to his Departmental Secretary, Maureen, Dr Piercemüller notes that his repetitive failure to turn up for scheduled lectures together with his readiness to award excellent marks to cursorily read essays means that his practice is an example of what several US scholars recently called the “disengagement compact”, in which academics and students tacitly trade light workloads and lenient marking for higher teaching evaluation scores.

Attempts to contact Dr Piercemüller for further comment were unsuccessful. Departmental Secretary Maureen told The Poppletonian that she had had no contact since her last letter of complaint to him about his unexplained absence had been returned with an “A–” mark and the comment “Most promising”.


Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

Places are available for next week’s Interpersonal Relationships seminar, in which our visiting speaker will consider the predicament faced by those academics who can’t quite remember how they came to choose their present partner. Mark your applications: “Unconscious Coupling”.

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Reader's comments (1)

As an African-American researcher, who recently started work at Plymouth University (PU), I find it surprising and deeply offensive that one of the main buildings on campus is named after Sir Francis Drake, an infamous slave trader. I find it doubly surprising that PU, which prides itself on its diversity and progressive attitudes, would continue to promote this dark historical legacy. How does PU expect to attract African, particularly Nigerian students, when it sends out this type of negative message? Wouldn’t it be far better if the building were named after a less controversial figure and, perhaps, even a positive role model? I suggest naming the building after our Vice Chancellor Wendy Purcell, just as another building on campus is named after her predecessor Vice Chancellor Roland Levinsky. During Professor Purcell’s tenure PU has achieved the status of 73rd best university in the UK according to the Times rankings. This is an amazing achievement when one considers the fierce competition from other centres of higher education, particularly in the Southwest. A good example is the University of Falmouth, which now ranks just below PU at 77th. Let’s together build a bridge to the future that we can all be proud of and rename the building the Wendy Purcell Hall.

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