My box is bigger than yours!

June 23, 2011

Our Head of Research Impact, Gerald Thudd, has described the recent London School of Economics conference, Investigating Academic Impact, as "a major breakthrough".

Thudd informed our reporter, Keith Ponting (30), that the conference was the result of a whole year's work on measuring impact undertaken by dedicated teams from the University of Leeds, the LSE and Imperial College London.

There had been "a veritable plethora" of ideas expounded, but he had been particularly impressed by the suggestion that every academic should immediately create an "impact box" in which they could place evidence of personal research impact.

What might go in such a box? Thudd instanced the conference handbook suggestion that "if an academic gives a talk to an outside body that is greeted enthusiastically, gets lots of questions and is warmly applauded", this would be an ideal candidate for the box - particularly if the record also "involved a count of how many people were in the room and ... their degree of seniority".

Thudd admitted that conference delegates had not proposed precise methods for measuring the actual degree of "warmth" in the applause or indeed the exact number of questions that might meet the criterion of "lots". But he believed that these details, along with such other critical matters as the size and colour of the "impact box", would necessarily require "further research".

Top for what?

"I have every sympathy with Northampton." That was the generous response of Jamie Targett, our Director of Corporate Affairs, to the news that the University of Northampton's attempt to market itself as the UK's top university for social enterprise was being held back by the unfortunate fact that few people seemed to have the faintest idea what was meant by "social enterprise".

In the circumstances, Targett said he could only agree with the assertion by Nick Petford, vice-chancellor of Northampton, that it was "a bit of a bold move" to seek to differentiate his university in this manner.

He recalled a similar problem when Poppleton endeavoured to market itself as the UK's top university for Porcine Gastronomical Products. Only after intensive focus-group research by the marketing department was Poppleton successfully redesignated the UK's top sausage factory university.

Targett stressed the value of being a pioneer in such differentiation. For although many other universities now had claims to be sausage factories in their own right, Poppleton remained the brand leader.

Parent power

One of our leading social analysts, Mr Ted Odgers of the Department of Media and Cultural Studies, has admitted to being "astonished" by the news from a poll for Universities Week that a third of parents of young people aged between 13 and 21 had "little or no understanding of the new tuition fees system for England and Wales".

"If this poll is accurate," said Odgers, "then it must mean that two-thirds of these parents have at least some understanding of the new tuition fees system. At a time when national educational standards are constantly belittled, it is a real tribute to the parents of this country that in this respect they currently enjoy a clear intellectual advantage over the minister for universities and science."

Thought for the Week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

"An attendee at last week's session on the Inner Journey appears to have left their personal mantra behind. If you wish to reclaim this, please contact the office; mark your communication: 'SHRI HARI SHARNAM MAMAHA'."

lolsoc@dircon.co.uk.

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