Our vice-chancellor has described the 35 per cent increase in managerial staff at Poppleton during the past four years as "a most promising development".
He told our reporter, Keith Ponting (30), that the Poppleton rise was only "marginally higher" than the 30 per cent increase in the number of university managers over the past four years that had been documented recently by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
When pressed by Ponting for the reasons behind the dramatic expansion in numbers, our vice-chancellor quoted Professor Roger Brown of Liverpool Hope University, who attributed a significant part of the increase to the extra numbers of managers who were now needed in marketing, selling and recruitment.
He gave short shrift, however, to Ponting's suggestion that such an increase in managers at the expense of academic staff might paradoxically be diminishing the value of the university that many of the extra managers had been hired to promote.
"That sort of argument", he said, "is a perfect example of the type of abstract intellectualism that in the past has helped to give universities such a bad name."
"We have found our X factor."
That was the confident response of Jamie Targett, our thrusting Director of Corporate Affairs, to the claim by Julian Beer, pro vice-chancellor of Plymouth University, that some universities had failed to develop distinctive identities.
Targett told a hastily convened press conference in the atrium of the new Administrative Block that he thoroughly agreed with Professor Beer's contention that too many universities were attempting to achieve excellence in both teaching and research and had thereby become indistinguishable.
"This is why", Targett explained, "we have decided upon a new and quite distinctive mission at Poppleton. From now on, we will describe ourselves not as excellent but as 'fair to middling'.
"It is our hope", he continued, "that many prospective students who currently regard their own ability as fair to middling will now think of Poppleton as their natural home."
Targett told the assembled reporter from the Poppleton Evening News that the university was well on the way to achieving its new goal.
"We already have a critical mass of fair to middling academics with a fair to middling reputation in both teaching and research, so our new mission means that we will now be able to play to our traditional fair to middling strengths."
Lighten up a little, darling
Our Head of Staff Development and Allied Trades, Mike Stiglitz, has announced a new training programme for women who hold high office at Poppleton.
Mr Stiglitz said he was responding to the research by Mara Olekalns of Melbourne Business School that showed that women in senior leadership positions in higher education who displayed competence were perceived as not highly likeable.
He explained that the new training programme would instruct high-status women in such essential interactional skills as admitting to uncertainty when making decisions, developing deferential smiles and body language, and learning how to laugh at men's jokes.
Thought for the Week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
"When you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and Me."