Forever blowing bubbles

February 27, 2014

“With some people, it’s moan, moan, moan.”

That was how Professor D. W. Stout of our Department of Forensic Murder responded to the news from the Times Higher Education Best University Workplace Survey, that discrimination against women persists in the UK academy.

Professor Stout told reporter Keith Ponting (30) that he particularly resented the assertion that “powerful men at the top exist in their own bubble, making often bad decisions without consultation”.

This was completely at odds with his own practice. Before he made any decision, he insisted on chatting it over in the saloon bar of the King’s Head with his key members of staff: Geoff, Mike, Roger, Billy Boy, “Studs”, Les and “good old Tank”.

This was no “bubble”. Everyone in his department, including either or both of the female assistant lecturers, was welcome, “as long as they could take a joke, stand a round and enjoyed a singsong”.

Only last week, the vice-chancellor and two pro vice-chancellors (“Buster” and “Legover”) had popped in for a pint on their way to the Rotary Club. “You know, Ponting, you should join us next week. You’d be very welcome. As long as you kept your pencil in your pocket. Know what I mean?”

At this point, our reporter made an excuse, and left.


Now where was I?

The Poppletonian ( February 2014)

One of our leading theoretical sociologists, Dr Digby Summercamp, has leapt to the defence of social scientists who, according to a recent study published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion, are “less intelligent” than physicists.

Speaking to our reporter Keith Ponting, Dr Summercamp said: “Quite frankly, it doesn’t make much sense. I mean if you’re a social scientist you have to read lots of books with very big words, and then again you have to take social class background into account, not to mention the impact of globalisation on totalising structures and the whole role of gender – and then again you also have to know about neoliberalism and its effect upon things, as well as the role of the cultural sphere and how it’s now ironic what with all that post-modernism business. Sort of.”

Our acting head of physics, Professor G. W. Plank, declined to comment on the matter as he was temporarily tied up “resolving the question of the manner in which space-time supersymmetry might be realised at TeV scale and whether or not supersymmetry stabilised the electroweak scale thereby preventing high quantum corrections”.

Dr Summercamp described Professor Plank’s response as “sort of evasive”.


Who’s going where?

This new Poppletonian feature brings you weekly news of major appointments in higher education.

Appointments made by the universities and science minister, David Willetts

Chair of the Student Loans Company
Appointee: Chris Brodie
Background of successful candidate:

Mr Brodie spent 12 years as a board member of the UBS Investment Bank. Traders from this bank were fined £940 million in 2012 for manipulating the Libor inter-bank lending rate. The bank was also heavily exposed to the sub-prime mortgage crisis.

New member of the Higher Education Funding Council for England board
Appointee: Peter Houillon
Background of successful candidate:

Mr Houillon is chief executive of Kaplan UK and Ireland, a US-owned for-profit provider that has no UK degree-awarding powers. Its US arm was said by a 2012 Senate report on for-profit higher education to have “exhibited some of the most serious problems of any company examined by the committee”, although the report also said it had made significant reforms.

Other appointments
Joint Chair of Medical Ethics Committee (UK)
Appointees: Drs Burke and Hare


Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

Jennifer regrets that she is too full of mindfulness to contribute her regular thought

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