Laurie Taylor Column

January 12, 2007

Universities are using consultants posing as would-be students to test the "customer care" skills of academics - The Times Higher , January 5

Professor Lapping. A mystery student on line one...

Thanks, Maureen. Hello, Lapping speaking. How can I help?

My name is John Latimer. I was ringing to ask for details about your undergraduate degree.

Mr Latimer. How wonderful to hear from you. Thank you so much for ringing. Now, what sort of details would you like?

Could you possibly send me a course outline?

Of course, of course. Only too pleased. Just leave your address with my personal assistant, Maureen, and I'll make sure the course outline together with full reading lists and a complimentary pen are in tonight's post.

That's very kind.

Only too pleased to help. Yes, Lapping speaking.

It's Maureen again, Professor Lapping. Another mystery student caller on line two...

Thanks, Maureen. Hello, Lapping speaking. How can I help?

My name is Jane Gooding, and I wanted to know if your department was happy to accept mature students.

Jane, happy is not the word. We are delighted to receive mature students. Look, why don't you leave your address with my personal assistant, Maureen, and then we can write and fix a time when you could come and see me for a long chat about your aspirations and how they might be realised at Poppleton. Goodbye and thanks so much for ringing. Yes, Lapping speaking.

It's Maureen again, Professor Lapping. Was everything all right with those calls?

Admirable, Maureen. Admirable. One small detail, though. How is it that you're so good at spotting mystery calls?

I don't spot them. I now say that every call is a mystery call. It's my new year policy.

That's a policy?

It's called Being on the Safe Side.

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