First things first

August 1, 2013

“I have every sympathy with the University of Surrey’s desperate attempts to increase the number of its students with top‑class degrees.”

That was the supportive response of Dr K. T. Rounding Upwards, our Head of Mark Adjustment, to the recent news that Surrey had, “after extensive negotiations with the trade unions”, been forced to drop a scheme whereby staff were judged on the “percentage of students receiving a mark of 60 per cent or above for each module taught”.

But while Dr Upwards said that he subscribed to the general policy of sacking lecturers who were “obsessed with the ancient shibboleth of academic standards”, he could see that Surrey’s new insistence on staff having to show a “normal distribution of marks” was a more palatable way of achieving the same result with less negative publicity.

Matters might have been altogether less fraught, said Dr Upwards, if Surrey had quietly adopted the pioneering Poppleton approach to mark fixing. Under this system, all final mark sheets are covertly sent to a trained calligrapher who meticulously transforms every 1 into a 7, and every 3 into an 8.

Dr Upwards rejected the suggestion that such a scheme amounted to blatant cheating. “Frankly,” he said, “we like to think of it as Surrey with the fringe on top.”


I love my workplace

Our Corporate Director of Human Resources, Louise Bimpson, hopes that as many members of staff as possible will find the time to complete the inaugural Times Higher Education Best University Workplace survey.

Ms Bimpson said the survey was an excellent way to find out what it was really like to work in a UK university in 2013.

However, she had noted the length of the survey and thought it might save time and increase the participation rate if she offered some mild assistance with a few of the trickier questions. Here are those questions, together with Ms Bimpson’s helpful answering guide:

Q. 14 Wonderful. I love every minute

Q. 17 Couldn’t be better

Q. 35 Absolutely outstanding

Q. 51 Short-term contracts suit me very well

Q. 84 Some people deserve to be arbitrarily dismissed

Q. 98 Worth every penny of £382,000 a year.

She hoped this clarified the survey.


Lead on MacDuffer

“What better advertisement could there possibly be?”

That was the rhetorical question posed by Stewart Edge, our Head of Leadership Training, in response to the news that 56 current UK vice-chancellors have been through the Leadership Foundation’s Top Management Programme.

“Just imagine”, continued Mr Edge, “the state of our universities without all that expensive training. They would have been almost entirely run by inept autocratic self-seeking overpaid buffoons.”

Mr Edge said he was also “moved” upon learning from the new chief executive of the Leadership Foundation, Mark Pegg, that those vice-chancellors who’d been on the course had particularly enjoyed the range of outside speakers. In Dr Pegg’s words, they “loved to hear from chief fire officers”.

“It is”, concluded Mr Edge, “extremely heartening to know that in the event of a major university conflagration, there are at least 56 people in positions of authority who know more or less where the fire buckets are kept.”


Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

The Personal Development suite will be occupied all next week by delegates from the Annual Conference of the British Astrological Association. All in all, it promises to be a good week for those with Capricorn rising in Aries.

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