Metaphorically speaking

May 5, 2011

Our thrusting Director of Corporate Affairs, Jamie Targett, has announced that he shares the concerns about the divisions between academics and management recently expressed by Alison Johns, president of the UK's Association of University Administrators.

He said that, like Ms Johns, he was saddened and disturbed by accounts of academic staff referring to managers as "an administration mafia" and "a dark cloud descending upon universities".

He did now, however, agree with the AUA conference decision to improve this image by resort to the metaphor of "a zip in which the two sides are useless unless they come together".

His own preferred metaphor was that of a trouser press in which crumpled, baggy and slack-bottomed academics were ironed into shape by management. This, he claimed, was far more in tune with future developments in higher education "in which academics will of necessity need to be more and more straitjacketed. In these circumstances, the least we can do is make a start on their trousers."

Rude mechanicals

"Frankly, it's nothing short of impudent." That was the vigorous response of our vice-chancellor to the news that The Poppleton College of Further Education (formerly The Mechanics Institute) intends to offer undergraduate degrees at a considerably lower fee level than the £9,000 a year recently set by our own university.

In a statement, read out in his absence by his personal assistant, Mrs Dilworth, the vice-chancellor claimed that the college's decision to charge £2.50 a year for its degrees was "seriously misleading".

He pointed out that any prospective students who might be considering this offer should be aware that The Poppleton College of Further Education lacked many of the essential attributes of a proper university such as senior common rooms, professors who spent all their time doing research rather than teaching, an ever-growing team of managers, a Latin logo, and an extraordinarily well-paid senior executive.

Speaking in tongues

Our Deputy Head of English and Related Studies, Dr Janet Middlemay, has welcomed the news that researchers from the University of Oxford's Faculty of Linguistics, Philology and Phonetics are rushing to save a Papuan language that is now spoken by only three people.

Dr Middlemay said her attention had recently been drawn to the equally beleaguered language of the humanities. Although this language had at one time been widely used in institutions of higher education, her research suggested that there were now few academics who understood such once-familiar humanities phrases as "moral vision", "citizenship of the mind", "intellectual fulfilment" and "freedom of enquiry".

However, in a prepared statement, our Director of Curriculum Development, Janet Fluellen, insisted that this language had not been lost but "merely translated" into what she described as "the much wider and more acceptable lingua franca of goal-oriented, economy-based, vocation-directed transferable skills acquisition".

Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

Next week's seminar on the newly discovered therapeutic value of swearing will focus on the sodding vice-chancellor.

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