Laurie Taylor Column

May 21, 2004

Vice-chancellor, are you free to take a call from Professor Jenks?

Jenks, Mrs Dilworth? Since when did we have a professor called Jenks?

Since last Thursday. He was one of the successful external candidates for our new research assessment exercise chairs. One of the 20.

Thank you, Mrs Dilworth, I take the point. There's really no need to rub it in. Please put Professor Jenks through. Ah, Professor Jenks. Sincere congratulations on your appointment at Poppleton. Let's hope your own university won't miss you too much.

That's why I'm ringing, vice-chancellor. They've heard about your offer and decided to offer me a chair of their own with an identical salary of Pounds 65,000 and they will also throw in a new office and two sabbaticals.

Most interesting, Professor Jenks. But, of course, what they can't "throw in" is the status attached to a personal chair at this university. A Poppleton professorship cannot be measured in material terms.

How about £70,000 a year, a research assistant, three sabbatical terms and full expenses for two international conferences?

Professor Jenks. I must remind you again of the prestige...

Ten seconds. Ten-nine-eight...

£68,000 a year, a part-time research assistant, two sabbatical terms and a designated parking space.

Plus a year's free photocopying?

Done. You know, Professor Jenks, all of us here at Poppleton are very much looking forward to the distinctive contribution your research will make to the academic life of this university.

I sincerely hope that I can find an adequate way to repay the honour of being offered one of the most esteemed chairs in the country. It's not exactly every day of the week that one becomes a professor at Poppleton.

Professor Jenks, there's really no need to rub it in.

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