Save Willetts – new campaign

March 20, 2014

Persistent rumours that David Willetts, the universities and science minister, might soon lose his present post have prompted Professor Doug Gunter of our Politics Department to set up a “Save Dave” campaign.

“It’s a vital issue,” Professor Gunter told our reporter Keith Ponting (30). “If Willetts goes, there is every possibility that he will be replaced by Liz Truss, presently a junior minister in the Department for Education, whose commitment to right-wing ideas has already led to her being branded by one sector source as a ‘head banger’.”

But, asked Ponting, weren’t there some minor concerns about Mr Willetts’ competence? How about the cack-handed manner in which he had raised the cap on tuition fees in the expectation that universities would then compete with each other on price? What about his consistently over-hyped estimation of the amount of student debt that might be repaid? And what about his regular closed-door meetings with for-profit private providers, his failure to stand up to the home secretary over student visa restrictions, his readiness to hand over the student loan book to private debt collectors, his assertion that “feminism had trumped egalitarianism”, his collusion in the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance and the raising of fees for adult learners?

Professor Gunter was happy to acknowledge these shortcomings. What was important, he said, was that they were not underpinned by anything resembling consistency. “Dave’s great strength”, Professor Gunter told Ponting, “is that he never knows with any absolute degree of certainty what he is doing or why he is doing it. Compared with the ideological rigidities of his possible replacement, this makes him eminently worthy of all our support.”


Pass the serviette

People sitting at dining table (black and white)

Our vice-chancellor has described the admission of the private Regent’s University London to Universities UK as “relatively welcome”.

He told The Poppletonian that he didn’t have much to do with the Regent’s vice-chancellor because, in common with the vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, he was officially seated at the far end of the UUK table next to the heads of those universities that formerly enjoyed polytechnic status.

However, he did note that the newly admitted vice-chancellor, Aldwyn Cooper, although somewhat “privately” dressed, did quickly grasp the essential elements of UUK theory and practice: total reliance on the Russell Group of vice-chancellors to represent the interests of all other universities, complete pusillanimity in the face of the further marketisation of higher education and unbounded salary self-satisfaction.

“In my opinion,” added our vice-chancellor, “provided that he keeps his opinions as private as his institution, he should fit in very well.”


It’s just my imagination

Our Head of Creative Writing, Dr Clarissa Flanders, has praised Will Buckingham of De Montfort University for his “telling response” in Times Higher Education to Hanif Kureishi’s recent attacks on the value of creative writing courses.

Dr Flanders said that she particularly relished Buckingham’s argument that graduates in creative writing need not end up as major authors of fiction. The skills they developed could “be put to good use elsewhere”.

If further proof were needed of this contention, Dr Flanders said, one had only to look at the careers of her own graduates in creative writing. Many of these were now fully and happily employed in the preparation of university prospectuses.


Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

A neat reminder of the respect that should be shown towards colleagues:

‘There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away.’

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