Laurie Taylor column

November 5, 2004

"The coveted title of professor is being devalued" - report from National Conference of University Professors. The Times Higher, October 29.

From: The Office of the Vice-Chancellor

Subject: Professorial classification

Our academic profile (below) shows that this university is experiencing a glut of professors:

Professors 419

Lecturers, senior lecturers and readers 247

Short-term contract teachers and researchers 2,476

This imbalance threatens to devalue the professoriat and I am, therefore, now writing to introduce a new fabric-based classification that will ensure that prestige is appropriately allocated.

1. Run-of-the-Mill Professors (Chair Material: Uncut Moquette).

ROM Professors are those appointed at any time over the past 30 years who owe their present position to nothing more than the fact they had reached the top of the senior lecturers' scale and no one at the time could think of any persuasive reason why they shouldn't be allowed to climb one more rung

2. Leaving Unless Promoted Professors (Dralon). LUP Professors were appointed to their present position solely because of their success in blackmailing the university into making a professorial offer after they claimed to have received a promise of such a promotion from a rival institution

3. Purely Personal Professors (Vinyl). PPP Professors hold what were once called "personal chairs". In bygone days, these were bestowed upon academics who displayed such a mastery of their subject as to make them "outstanding scholars". No such concept is now employed in promotion procedures

4. Milk-Cow Research Professors (Full Leather). MCR Professors are top of the professorial tree. They rarely appear in the departments to which their names are attached or carry out any teaching or administration. Their sole function is to churn out bit-and-piece research papers for the next RAE.

Please note that these terms should henceforth be used in all self-descriptions and communications (eg Dralon Professor of Social Administration or Uncut Moquette Professor of Media Studies or Full Leather Professor of Creative Accountancy).

I hope this clarifies matters.

The Vice-Chancellor (signed and written in his absence by Mrs Dilworth).

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