Laurie Taylor Column

July 14, 2006

"When academics go to a dinner party they don't know how to answer the 'what do you do' question" - Lesley-Jane Eales-Reynolds at the Higher Education Academy's annual conference, July 2006.

Another glass of white? You look a little empty.

How very kind. But I think this will do me until we sit down to eat.

Friend of Alice's?

Not really. I know Alice through Jeremy. We work together in television documentaries.

How fascinating.

Well, it has its moments. And you? What line of work are you in?

It's almost impossible to say. You see, I'm very much involved in high-level financial administration. Securing additional funding. Meeting financial targets. Watching the bottom line.

Quite a job!

But then I'm also responsible for monitoring quality standards and developing centres of excellence and for improving the synergy between educational outcomes and the needs of the global economy.

My word!

As well as ensuring that minority groups have access to new avenues of career mobility and keeping at the forefront of cutting-edge research. So, as you see, it's not easy to fit all that into a simple job title. Would you like to have a wild guess?

I'd say that you probably ran the cultural and media studies department at a provincial university.

That's remarkably perceptive.

And I'd say that your name was probably "Gordon Lipping".

"Lapping". How on earth did you guess all that?

You still have a 2005 Association of University Teachers summer conference badge pinned to your suit lapel. Shall we move towards the table? It looks as though the salt and pepper squid has just arrived.

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