“It’s only five new chairs. Only one more than the University of York.”
That was how Janet Fluellen, our Director of Curriculum Development, responded to suggestions from reporter Keith Ponting (30) that our university’s decision to advertise five new chairs in management was a cynical way of capitalising on the news that business and management, with more than 200,000 students, was now the most popular of all undergraduate degrees.
Ms Fluellen said that although she could not speak for York, she assumed that its appointment of four new chairs in management would be based solely on the same thoroughgoing intellectual grounds that had informed the expansion in management studies at Poppleton.
Ponting wondered if these intellectual grounds took account of the conclusion by Bryan Appleyard, former finance editor of The Times, that “business theories are like Marxism in the Soviet Union: they are only true to the extent that enough people pretend that they are”.
Ms Fluellen told Ponting that she had never heard of Mr Appleyard and so much preferred to have her judgement confirmed by such an “esteemed university as York”, which had only recently taken the “thoroughly intellectual decision” to spend £50,000 of its finances on joining the Russell Group.
Not quite la verité
Our Head of Prospectus Management, Angela Topping, has fulsomely praised “the practical wisdom” of Melinda Drowley, the Quality Assurance Agency’s head of standards, quality and enhancement.
Ms Topping, who has been preoccupied with fighting off allegations that there was something “misleading” about our prospectus description of the Biology pond as “Arcadian”, singled out Dr Drowley’s declaration that while there was “no excuse” for a prospectus “being misleading”, it also needed to be recognised that prospective students who turn to a prospectus for information “will read it knowing it’s a marketing tool”.
It was, said Ms Topping, extremely refreshing to learn from someone with expertise in quality assurance that students applying to study for an academic degree should read a university prospectus in much the same spirit with which they approached the contents of an estate agent’s window.
Silence of the dons
Nancy Harbinger, our Deputy Head of Student Experience, has issued new instructions to academic staff on how to conduct everyday relations with students.
In her directive, Ms Harbinger cites evidence from Robin Dutton, director of quality systems at University College Birmingham, that more and more students are becoming litigious about their assessment. In such circumstances, writes Ms Harbinger, academics should take the advice of Karen Stephenson, a partner in the education team at a firm of solicitors, and no longer have “informal conversations” in corridors with individual students about their marks but should instead “schedule meetings and make file notes”.
Ms Harbinger points out that even such an innocuous corridor greeting to a student as “Pretty good for the time of year” or “Looks like we’re in for a deluge” are capable of being misinterpreted in a court of law.
In such circumstances, advises Ms Harbinger, academics should largely avoid all contact with students unless they are sitting down in rows.
Thought for the week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
“I regret to announce the postponement of next week’s lecture on ‘The Therapeutic Benefits of Colonic Irrigation’. It appears that our guest lecturer has got behind in his work.”