"It is difficult to avoid the phrase 'sinking ship'." That was how Jamie Targett, our Director of Corporate Affairs, responded to news that the University of Surrey had joined with Bath and St Andrews and forsaken the ever-diminishing 1994 Group.
Targett dismissed the "scurrilous rumours" that all these universities had defected only to enhance their "remote chances" of being invited to join the Russell Group. "I prefer to believe", he told The Poppletonian, "that each of the universities had, in separate ways, begun to feel that the 1994 Group was now a little on the downmarket side of things and had even become, how can one put this, ever-so-slightly scruffy."
Targett did, however, agree that now might be an appropriate time for Poppleton to renew its longstanding application to join the group. But he said there was no urgency about the matter. "Frankly, the last thing we'd want to do is to join and then discover that there were no other members."
Fiddling the REF: further revelations
Louise Bimpson, the Corporate Director of our Department of Human Resources, has vigorously dismissed the suggestion that Poppleton University might be the institution recently described in Times Higher Education as seeking to further its performance in the research excellence framework by hiring 15 professors who are not required to do any teaching whatsoever.
"Obviously," Ms Bimpson told our reporter Keith Ponting (30), "we are taking the REF very seriously indeed. That is why we have said 'goodbye and happy retirement' to more than 120 'research-deficit' academics, poached three major research centres from other universities and hired seven distinguished novelists to assist in the preparation of our 'impact submissions'."
However, after further questioning, Ms Bimpson did admit that Poppleton's reluctance to hire any new non-teaching professors was not "altogether unrelated" to the fact that nearly all of its several hundred current professors were, in her carefully chosen words, "rather more familiar with urban break-dancing than standing up on their feet at a lectern".
Call me 'Madam'
Dr Derek Quintock of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies has given his "unstinted support" to the recent suggestion in Times Higher Education by Sue Norton, lecturer in English at the Dublin Institute of Technology, that the current "lack of seriousness" among students might be "partly reversed" if lecturers insisted upon being addressed more formally.
Our Deputy Head of Student Experience, Nancy Harbinger, confirmed that there were no plans at present to adopt more formal modes of addressing academic staff. She did, nevertheless, wish to thank Del Boy for his "constructive comments".
Is my alignment showing?
Hot on the heels of the news that Durham Business School is to be rebranded Durham University Business School "to better align it with its parent organisation" comes news of a similar change of nomenclature for a leading Poppleton institution.
From this month, Poppleton's leading thespian college - the Mrs Ada Pollock Upper Poppleton School of Dance and Drama - will improve its own "alignment" by becoming the Mrs Ada Pollock Upper Poppleton University School of Dance and Drama.
As we go to press, we learn that other organisations with university associations have also expressed an interest in "greater alignment". Proposed name changes include: the University of Poppleton Star of India Tandoori House, the University of Poppleton Station Taxis and the University of Poppleton Magic Fingers Thai Massage Salon.
Thought for the week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
Next week's seminar on 'Post-Retirement Planning: A Different Perspective' will be given by a leading Swiss clinician.