Garlands of scented ragwort were hung around our Vice-Chancellor's neck during his recent visit to Poppleton's new offshore campus in the former Soviet Republic of Kalashnistan. The garlands, traditionally reserved for "heroes of the state", were bestowed upon our V-C during a public ceremony in the university's central parade ground, which was also marked by a speech from a senior Kalashnistan minister on the importance of cultivating educational ties with such "willing collaborators" as Poppleton University. The ceremony concluded with the V-C joining in the massed singing of the traditional student song Long live our glorious republic. Death to all traitors.
In an after-dinner speech later that night in the presidential palace, our V-C attacked those who have questioned the wisdom of Poppleton setting up a campus in a country that was recently accused by human-rights groups of executing several hundred leading intellectuals for "liberal tendencies". "Let's face it," he said, "all absolute dictatorships tend to have their teething problems and Kalashnistan is no exception. But the presence of Poppleton values in this country can only be a force for the good."
On his last day, the V-C toured the offshore campus where he met research staff from the Department of Media Studies who are hard at work analysing the distinctive role of the media in a society with only one newspaper, and chatted to staff from the Department of Politics who are preparing an exciting new course on the wonders of Kalashnistan tractor production.
The day concluded with a relaxed visit to the newly established retraining facilities for failed students and an informal tour of the famous Kalashnistan salt mines.
Spiderman is here
In a rapid response to concerns expressed by Hefce and Chris Brink, the vice-chancellor of Newcastle University, about new ways of measuring the value of a university, Poppleton has appointed its very first research Professor of Spidergrams.
Professor T.B. Legstaff, who was previously Head of Clustering Maps at Uttoxeter University, has been given the specific brief of preparing the most appropriate way of diagrammatically representing the distinctive character of Poppleton University.
Speaking to a hastily convened press conference, Professor Legstaff said that although his appointment was initially in Spidergrams, this would not necessarily exclude the use of Bubble Diagrams, Tree Diagrams, Logic Diagrams or Venn/Euler/Johnstone Diagrams if any of these "did a better job" of capturing what he called "Poppleton's unique offering".
Pressed to explain the nature of Spidergrams, Professor Legstaff said that essentially they were "histogram-like plots of the abundance of a set of elements in an analysed sample relative to their abundance in some standards".
Applauding Professor Legstaff's appointment, our thrusting Director of Corporate Affairs, Jamie Targett, said that he believed that anything which supplemented the university's current use of managerial diagrams featuring lots of boxes with incomprehensible names, dozens of lines going nowhere in particular and large arrows pointing all over the place, was to be welcomed.
Vacation return adjudications
At last Tuesday's meeting of the Vacation Return committee, 24 academics were officially reprimanded for returning late to campus after their summer vacation. All those reprimanded will lose an appropriate number of days from future statutory leave and will have their passports confiscated. (The committee reserved judgment on Dr Piercemuller, who has still not returned from his Easter break.)
Thought for the Week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
As we look forward to greeting another cohort of freshers, here's a thought that reminds us how we might refresh ourselves for the coming year: Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.