The Russell of Spring

Laurie Taylor's weekly bulletin from the University of Poppleton

May 21, 2015

Source: Rex

Russell Group gets down to business

“Let’s hope Jo turns out like good old Willetts.”

That was the reported reaction of a leading member of the Russell Group to the news that Jo Johnson, the Orpington MP and brother of London mayor Boris Johnson, was to be the new minister for universities and science.

“You know, the great thing about good old Dave”, continued the anonymous source, “was that he was hardly aware that there were any universities outside the Russell Group. So he’d always pop round to ask our opinion whenever he wanted to discuss any new policy initiative such as reforming A levels or raising tuition fees. And, of course, we were always there to explain to him how our own elite interests could be presented as beneficial to the entire university sector.”

Our source detected some reason for optimism in the news that Mr Johnson had been a member of the University of Oxford’s Bullingdon Club. “Quite frankly, anyone who has experienced that club’s principled commitment to fine dining, social exclusivity and total insensitivity to those who do not enjoy the same privileges as themselves could be expected to feel thoroughly at home with the Russell Group.”

(On other pages: Wendy Piatt, director general of the Russell Group, makes the case for even higher tuition fees.)

 

Academic crackers

“Biscuits.”

That was the initial response from our vice-chancellor when he was asked by our reporter Keith Ponting (30) if he agreed with the recent insistence by Zara Whysall, senior lecturer in management at Nottingham Trent University, and Anne-Marie McTavish, head of the department of management at Birmingham City University, that vice-chancellors should increasingly be drawn from non-academic backgrounds.

When pressed to elaborate, he said his own background as head of the “Assorted” division of United Biscuits had equipped him to deal with “the exigencies of a marketised university going forward”.

“I simply thought of academic departments as so many biscuit varieties. So, when I was forced to close down the Department of Philosophy in the wake of its poor research excellence framework impact score, I found the decision much easier when I thought of the department as a failed biscuit – say, a coconut digestive or a chocolate-covered gingernut, rather than as a collection of inadequate human beings.”

Our vice-chancellor admitted that his current concerns were with the Department of Sociology. “I don’t want to speak prematurely,” he told Ponting, “but it’s pretty clear from where I’m sitting (the throne room in the administration block) that it’s already several biscuits short of a meeting.”

 

An apology

In last week’s Poppletonian we complimented the QAA for the manner in which its well-established commitment to lack of transparency had been enhanced by its reversal of the promise to publish the result of the University of Southampton’s successful appeal against its critical findings.

We now realise, following the news that the QAA has also gone back on its promise to publish the results of another successful appeal against its critical findings by the Institute of Contemporary Music Performance, that we should also have complimented the QAA on its singular capacity for speaking out of both sides of its mouth at the same time. Apologies for this omission.

 

Thought for the week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

Next week’s visiting lecturer in our Built Environment series is from the Department of Architecture at King’s College London. Apply in the usual manner, marking your application “Vandal”.

lolsoc@dircon.co.uk

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

International Student Support Assistant YORK ST JOHN UNIVERSITY
Senior Lecturer: Architecture (Cultural Content) NORWICH UNIVERSITY OF THE ARTS
Head of Department of Physics ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY
Research Assistant LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS & POLITICAL SCIENCE LSE

Most Commented

question marks PhD study

Selecting the right doctorate is crucial for success. Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O'Gorman share top 10 tips on how to pick a PhD

India, UK, flag

Sir Keith Burnett reflects on what he learned about international students while in India with the UK prime minister

Pencil lying on open diary

Requesting a log of daily activity means that trust between the institution and the scholar has broken down, says Toby Miller

Application for graduate job
Universities producing the most employable graduates have been ranked by companies around the world in the Global University Employability Ranking 2016
Construction workers erecting barriers

Directly linking non-EU recruitment to award levels in teaching assessment has also been under consideration, sources suggest