Our vice-chancellor claims to have "inside knowledge" on the rumour that some Russell Group members considered breaking away and forming their own super-elite subgroup after the original group was expanded by the admission of the universities of Durham, Exeter, Queen Mary, London, and York.
Speaking to our reporter Keith Ponting (30), the vice-chancellor revealed that he had been "fortuitously present" in a toilet cubicle during a recent Universities UK meeting and had overheard two vice-chancellors from traditional Russell Group institutions discussing the arrival of the new members.
One was heard to say: "Quite frankly, Charles, it's all going down the chute. I mean, what made the leading members of the Russell Group so damned distinctive? It was our proud record of failing to meet even the most modest admission targets for disadvantaged and state school pupils. And now what are we doing? We're demeaning those very elitist admission standards by letting in a bunch of riff-raff universities."
Although his audibility at this stage was affected by an outburst of flushing, our vice-chancellor was sure that the other Russell Group member echoed the sentiments thusly: "Frankly Bertrand, if you ask me, the worst thing about the whole damned business is that we've let the riff-raff in at the very moment when that nice Mr Willetts has been so kind as to relax the controls on the admission of high-achieving students and that equally nice Mr Gove has been our guest at a recent dinner and asked us to decide the contents of the revised A-level examinations. What are good people like that going to think when they arrive for a cosy chat and find they're sitting opposite some (expletive deleted) from Exeter or York?"
(Editor's note: The rumour that any such new super-grouping of Russell Group universities would acknowledge its present capacity to influence government policy by renaming itself The Hustle Group is so far unconfirmed.)
Are you sitting comfortably?
"It's a breakthrough." That was the reaction of Ted Thorndike, our senior lecturer in the Department of Psychology, to a study by researchers from the University of East London and the University of Westminster that suggests, on the basis of a project involving 447 undergraduates across three cohorts, that students who bring water into examinations may improve their grades.
Dr Thorndike said these research findings very much complemented research he was conducting into whether students who sat sideways on their chairs in examination halls secured better grades.
Although his results did show that sideways sitting was positively correlated with higher grades, he admitted that he had failed to control for the presence or absence of water. This meant that more research was clearly needed.
However, even at this early stage it was possible to extrapolate from the two sets of findings and hypothesise with some confidence that "Sideways Students with Water" would have a distinct advantage over "Sideways-Only Students" and "Water-Only Students", and would in turn enjoy a double advantage over "Non-Sideways Students" and "Non-Water Students".
(Dr Thorndike is eager to recruit more experimental subjects for his research. He can be contacted via email or readily recognised on campus by the trademark carrot in his buttonhole.)
Thought for the week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
Please note that next Thursday evening's Inter-Faith seminar will be given by Father Ted Sloper of our Catholic chaplaincy, who will be explaining the mystery of the Holy Trinity. Venue: Inter-faith chapel. Time: 6.30 to 11.45.